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Billings school board continues hearing about library books

Posted at 11:15 PM, May 21, 2024

BILLINGS - The debate of some books in school libraries has been going on for months and the public comment about the issue lasted almost two hours at the school board meeting on Monday night.

Billings school board meetings have drawn a lot of attention around books and how they're approved.

The board chair says in the past, citizens have been most concerned about the budget.

“I'd like to give context to the complaints raised in April about two of these books,” Cici Kelling, a Billngs parent, said during public comment.

The board even talked about possibly moving public comment to the end of meetings.

Board Chair Scott McCulloch said that is a decision for the Board Operations Committee on how to arrange the agenda.

Parents and students told the board what they thought about books in school libraries.

“One of the questions that comes to my mind is why are we on the same hamster wheel over and over again?” asked Clementine Lindley, a Billings parent. “Can we deal with bigger things?”

Lindley has been active with school issues and even ran for a seat on the school board.

She says the discussion has been around the approval or disapproval of books and the librarians choosing the materials.

“Stick with the policy,” said Rep. Lee Deming, R-Laurel “Stick with the guns that you have developed because I think the new policy is probably going to work very well.”

Demming also represents West Billings and says some of the books selected have what he calls age-inappropriate material.

“If there's a book that some other parent deems irresponsible or pornographic in nature and I believe is very helpful to my child's well-being, I want to be able to have that opportunity,” Lindley said.  

Jesse Browning testified at Monday's meeting and said in a statement to Q2: “Many parents and community members strongly support Superintendent Garcia and others who are proposing procedural changes to get SD2 in compliance with Montana law by providing additional oversight to book purchases. We applaud their efforts.”

Board Chair Scott McCulloch says the books issue and masks during COVID have drawn the most interest from parents, recently.

Before that, he says the teachers’ strike in 2002 brought a lot of public comment at school board meetings and later it was about finances and money.

He says the difference is that this latest passion and interest have been about social issues rather than district issues.

The board plans to look at its policy and procedure for choosing books at a future meeting.