Who is responsible for the educational materials our students use? | Eastern North Carolina Now

Most school boards are way behind on this topic


For those of us who have been in public education long enough to witness firsthand the impact of textbook publishing on our public schools, we have seen in recent years how multi-billion dollar corporations have influenced what our student learn.  No better example can be found than the inclusion of LGBTQ advocacy in our textbooks and instructional materials.  This is true mainly because when it comes times to select textbooks to be used in schools, the choices are constrained mainly by what the textbook publishers offer in their repertoire. 

This textbook publishing cabal is nothing new.  We had a good dose of it during the latter part of the Vietnam war and of course, emanating from the Civil Rights Movement. But what is different with the LGBTQ movement is that in addition to the content of the textbooks there is a well-financed group that is pushing school systems to support the movement.  That same influence can be seen in nearly every movement you see today and almost every time you turn on the television.  Just look at what has happened to some of our largest religious denominations. 

However, there are states and local school boards that are pushing back.  Click here for an example of that.

School boards therefore are fooling themselves if they think the issue is which textbook to select.  The issues today are much deeper and broader than content.  Just wait until a conservative group demands that LGBTQ materials be banned and that board is likely to find itself in a major fight.  But school boards should quickly review their textbook selection process and be very prepared for how they intend to enforce their policies.

Moreover, there is a pervasive myth that school boards have to pick books that are on an “approved list” often originating at the state level.  Sometimes those choices in the past were limited by the financial allotments the state issued to local school systems.  But the dominant influence comes from the publishers because they tend to publish what they think “the market” wants.  The truth is that in North Carolina local school boards have broad and nearly omnipotent power to select textbooks and instructional materials.

NCGS115C-98 provides:  The local board, at all times, has sole authority and discretion to determine whether a challenge has merit and whether challenged material should be retained or removed.

(b2)      Local boards of education may:

(1)        Select, procure, and use textbooks that have not been adopted by the State Board of Education for use throughout the local school administrative unit for selected grade levels and courses; and

(2)        Approve school improvement plans developed under G.S. 115C-105.27 that include provisions for using textbooks that have not been adopted by the State Board of Education for selected grade levels and courses.

 Click here for a more detailed description of the topic published by the NC Department of Public Instruction.

It is implicit in these statutes that local board of education may require teachers to use only textbooks and materials approved by the local board of education.  The problem often arises, as it did recently in Beaufort County, that teachers are not properly informed if they are to use only approved materials.  Thus, every local school system should have a policy that explicitly prohibits the use of instructional materials, including textbooks and online materials that have not been approved by the local board of education, or via a process prescribed by the local board of education.

Moreover, how such a policy is enforced is nearly as important as having a clear approval process.  Most legal scholars would suggest that the likely best method of enforcement is NCGS 115C-325, which is the statute that provides for the discipline, including dismissal/termination of a teacher or principal.  That statute provides for an explicit list of 15 reasons a teacher may be dismissed or demoted.  Number 10 in this list states:  Failure to comply with such reasonable requirements as the board may prescribe.

Case law based on this statutory provision has held very clearly that the “reasonable requirements” must not be arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or abuse of authority.  Inherent in this requirement is that the teacher must have known or could have been expected to have known that the specific action was prohibited by board proscription.   In other words, the superintendent, principal or board may not terminate or demote an employee unless it can show that a reasonable person would have known that what was done was a violation.  (Note:  For these reasons it could be said that the Beaufort County Superintendent’s handling of the use of what he described as inappropriate instructional materials was not only contrary to law but possibly subjected the school system to judicial sanction if the teacher chose to pursue that avenue.)  I offer this assessment not to condemn but to illustrate that the Board has a duty to be sure their approval/disapproval of textbooks, supplementary materials and instructional pedagogy are correctly developed and legally implemented. 

I would add that there is another emerging issue related to this topic, and that is online materials.  Students and teachers today have almost instant access to materials never before available to them via a simple computer search and as Artificial Intelligence grows it will become more and more critical that the process of determining what students will be exposed to and what they may use in their studies has passed muster according to the duly adopted policies of the local boards of education.

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( November 5th, 2023 @ 9:55 am )
In this past legislative session, when Rep. Kidwell introduced legislation to be sure our school board had authority if they should choose to adopt a curriculum that the far left opposed, he was told by legislative lawyers that it was not necessary and that the North Carolina law cited in this article already gave them authority to do that. The education bureaucracy both in Raleigh and locally wanats everybody to think they have a veto but under the law they do not. We need more school board members who are willing to exercise the authority that the law gives them on curriculum.

Several states, notably Florida and to a lesser degree Texas are pushing back against these domineering textbook companies. If it has any of the alphabet soup of woke - CRT, DEI, ESG, SEL, etc. - Florida will not approve it.
( November 5th, 2023 @ 7:03 am )
The knowledge in this article is vital to the correct running of our schools. If you have read it,, you probably know more than most of our school board.

If you are willing to act on this information, you are a hero.
( November 5th, 2023 @ 6:58 am )
Thanks Delma: Parents and political types should read every word of your thoughtful post on what is proper in selecting learning materials, including potential online invasions.

Acquiring learning materials will always be a subjective process, and what matters most will always be the knowledge, wisdom and level of involvement by the school board and their constituents - parents and concerned taxpayers.

"If it takes a village," let's have at it.

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