MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A TikTok posted by a Murfreesboro teacher explaining why she came into work on a Saturday has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on the platform.
In the video, she says she came in over the weekend to catalog the books she keeps in her classroom to comply with the “Age Appropriate Materials Act” passed this year in the Tennessee General Assembly.
“Teachers have to catalog every single book,” she says. “Most teachers have hundreds of books, some I would say have thousands.”
While the teacher says her district isn’t asking her to come in on her time off to make a list of all the books she has on her shelves, she said she is doing it so her students can have something to read after they take tests.
In a statement to News 2 a spokesperson for Murfreesboro City Schools said, “In general, this Act requires each public school to maintain and post on the school’s website a list of the materials in the school’s library collection.” The statement adds, “Our legal counsel has advised that the definition of library collection as outlined in the law applies to classroom libraries. It is our intent to follow the law while supporting our teachers. Our district has provided our teachers with great flexibility in completing this requirement and has not set timelines for completing a classroom inventory.”
The spokesperson also said that while students can’t read books from classroom libraries until they are categorized, they can read books from the school library, which are posted on the school website.
The debate surrounding books in classrooms came to the State Capitol after the McMinn County School Board banned “Maus” — a Pulitzer Prize-awarded graphic novel about the Holocaust.
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The board said it was banned because of inappropriate images and graphic language. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, was one of the sponsors of the legislation and said this Act wasn’t a book ban, but rather a move to add more transparency to schools.
“I think whenever it comes to education the more parents know the better,” Johnson said leading up to the passage of the law.
However, the President of the Tennessee Education Association says the lack of trust this law shows in public school teachers, the extra work it adds to their plate, and feeling restricted in what they can teach is only contributing to the statewide teacher shortage.
“This process is really unnecessary,” TEA President Tanya Coats said. “We are professionals in our classrooms, and we know what’s best for our students. We wouldn’t put anything in front of them that would be inappropriate or know it would be harmful to students.”
Yet, while frustrated by the lack of compensation for this extra work, Coats said teachers will comply with the law.