Information provided by the NSLA.
As part of the effort toward school privatization, Kirk Penner is trying to eliminate the minimum requirements for school library collections and staff. Public schools provide us with a literate citizenry and it’s been a hard-fought battle to have certified librarians and adequate resources in schools in the first place. Districts that are strapped for cash will look at these positions as a place to make cuts, unless functioning school libraries remain a condition for school accreditation.
“Rule 10” refers to the regulations and procedures a public school needs to follow to earn accreditation in Nebraska. This list of requirements ranges from teachers needing to be certified (though this requirement is being whittled down in the midst of a teacher shortage) to school libraries needing a set of encyclopedias with copyright dates in the past five years. To the average person it might sound like dry but necessary bureaucracy, but to Kirk Penner this document is absolutely titillating.
He recently got his hands on it and tweeted his proposed “changes” to the Library/Media and Technology Resources section, which involved crossing out all the stuff that helps libraries function and replacing it with “No library shall have any pornographic materials.” This is not a helpful change: school libraries conveniently already do not house porn. Penner’s misplaced concern about where students are accessing porn won’t change what’s in our libraries, but the statements he crossed out of the document could.
Penner’s redundant porn ban replaces a requirement for school libraries to acquire 25 to 150 new media resources each year, with specifications for grade levels and whether the material is print or electronic. This requirement ensures that lost or damaged materials get replaced and that the books students want to read are on shelves. It has also ensured that no school could decide to slash their library budget or remove all their books and still earn accreditation, but Penner’s goal is to change that. In his mind, encyclopedias are too sexy for students. Florida’s most recent attack on children’s education seems to be Penner’s fantasy – he wants to cut our Rule 10 encyclopedia requirement. Along with proposed changes to the processes that schools have in place for books that garner complaints*, it would be possible for Kirk to remove entire reference sections from schools.
By changing what schools are required to offer and adding unrealistic requirements, such as how library materials need to be cataloged online for supervision (without note about the cost to do so), Kirk does his part to erode public education. This proposed rule change could reduce funding, resources, and staff in schools, and Kirk has already shown his eagerness to lower educational standards and bully teachers with his power as a State Board of Education member. Contact your board representative to let them know you oppose his proposed rule changes, not just because he’s full of extremist nonsense, but also because none of his proposed changes were fully formed ideas. No school librarian would be so ill-prepared or poorly-researched.
*The majority of book challenges in over 100 school districts in 2021-2022 came from just 11 people.