NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Halfway through the school year, teachers are still confused and frustrated by the demands of the “Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022” passed by the Tennessee General Assembly last March.
“Teachers have been waiting the whole school year for direction on what to do about classroom libraries,” said Metropolitan Nashville Education Association President Michele Sheriff.
Metro Nashville Public Schools is now asking teachers to scan all the books in their classroom libraries so they can be uploaded to the school’s website. Sheriff says for many teachers this not only takes time away from planning, grading or communicating with parents, but also takes away their autonomy.
“Many teachers have multiple degrees. They have the experience to choose reading materials for the students that they teach,” she said. “Teachers do not have the extra time to go through and scan all the books in their class.”
A spokesperson for MNPS said they worked with principals and librarians to come up with a system for cataloging books that would be easiest for teachers but do need to make sure they are in compliance with state law.
“While we agree that the law was unnecessary and creates an undue burden on teachers, as a school district we are required to comply with the law. To move into compliance with the law, we have asked that the lists be completed by the end of the school year, but we have not asked teachers to limit access to classroom materials during that time,” the district said in a statement.
However, Sheriff says that over the past few months, rumors have circulated about what is required of teachers, which has led to confusion surrounding what is truly required of them.
“Every teacher that has contacted us has a different understanding of what they should do and what is expected from them,” she said.
In fact, the Tennessee Textbook Commission charged with coming up with guidance for school districts for situations when library books’ appropriateness is questioned, missed their December deadline. And, they are asking for more guidance themselves.
“We have gotten zero guidance from any attorneys, zero, and we are just out here as volunteers,” said one commission member at their December meeting.
But the confusion surrounding executing the state law has not stopped books from coming off the shelves.