ICCSD forms book review committee

The reconsideration committee will examine if “This Book is Gay” is suitable for the Iowa City Community School District libraries.


Avi Lapchick

Photo illustration.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

The Iowa City Community School Board is continuing to evaluate what to do with the book “This Book is Gay” after it was pulled from school library shelves last month.

The school board approved three members to serve on a reconsideration committee for the evaluation of “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson.

The policy came after the book was removed from all district libraries in response to a series of bomb threats that were made against Northwest Junior High School in March. The emailed threats led to an evacuation of the school on March 23 and 24.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Iowa City Schools Superintendent Matt Degner said there might have been some correlation between the book and the bomb threats.

“There were some specific connections between this title and some specific connections directly to some of our staff members that escalated our level of concern with those bomb threats,” Degner said.

The Sioux City Community School District also removed “This Book is Gay” in March.

Degner said the district’s initial decision to evaluate the book would allow them to address the threats while also maximizing staff and student safety.

“We felt it was best to work our policy and make sure that we did a review of the book and try to move forward from there,” Degner said.

Under the Iowa City Community School District’s Objection to Instructional Materials–Reconsideration of Instructional Materials Regulation policy, school district community members can formally challenge both instructional and library materials’ appropriateness in the school district’s programming.

According to the policy, the member must file the Request for Reconsideration of Instructional and Library Materials Form. Within two weeks of receipt, the district superintendent must convene a reconsideration committee.

The committee is made up of eight members: one licensed employee, one teacher-librarian, one member of the administrative team, three community members, and two high school students.

The three community members selected by Degner and approved by the school board are the Executive Director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature John Kenyon, the President of the African American Council at the University of Iowa Monique Galpin, and the former Director of the Iowa City Public Library Susan Craig.

Degner said the three will add a different viewpoint to the committee, which is needed.

“Three highly qualified individuals are prospective,” he said.

At the school board meeting, multiple board members said they were satisfied with the people selected for the committee.

RELATED: Student diversity on the rise in Iowa City schools 

Board member J.P. Claussen said he is pleased with the committee members.

“I think we’re lucky to have this caliber of individuals from our community who can go through this process,” Claussen said.

Additionally, board member Charlie Eastham echoed Claussen’s statements and said Degner’s choice was a good one.

“I think it’s a fantastic choice of brilliance [in] asking these particular three folks to serve on this committee,” Eastham said.

After the five additional members are selected for the committee, they will have 10 days to schedule their first meeting about the book.

Degner said this is a chance for the district to utilize the policy to the best of its ability.

“We have a process that works right here, right? So, we should not be afraid to use it,” he said. “We should not be afraid to say, this is something that we can point to that can really deal with concerns when they come forward.”