Regional School Unit 56 Director Kathleen Szostek of Dixfield, center, speaks Tuesday about adding another procedure to the policy on selecting instructional and library materials. The proposal was approved on first reading. From left at the board meeting Tuesday night at Dirigo High School in Dixfield are Directors Tim Kelly of Dixfield and Joy Bradbury of Peru, Szostek, and Larry Whittington of Dixfield. Screenshot from video

DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 directors approved the first reading Tuesday of an additional procedure for selecting instructional and library media materials.

Superintendent Pam Doyen said, if approved after a second reading, it means if school librarians read inconsistent or conflicting reviews of a book, it would be sent to the superintendent to consider.

The district’s current policy on selecting materials does not include such a step.

“So, it just gives it another little stopgap to stop and think about this book,” she said. The administration would read the book and determine if it still needed to be in the library or not.

Doyen also said the district’s librarians thought the proposed procedure would be “an unnecessary step in a process … they already have professionals reviewing books,” so they feel the instructional and library media materials selection policy change is not necessary. “That’s, I think, the biggest thing that I heard from them.”

Director Larry Whittington of Dixfield objected to the change, arguing that the current policy “delegates responsibility for the selection of library media materials (to) professionally trained staff and the superintendent. So why are we even talking about it?”


However, Director Brad Dyer of Carthage said the board should take more time to discuss how and what books should be accepted or rejected in the school libraries.

“I think that there is an ideological disconnect around what’s appropriate to be in the library and not,” he said. “And it feels to me like there is a rush to get this thing out of the way because it’s uncomfortable as hell; it really is uncomfortable … But our community is saying, ‘just get these damn books out of here and put some teeth in place that say we won’t have this kind of material.’”

In August 2022, the board voted 7-2 to remove a controversial book on gender identity and sexuality from Dirigo High School’s library, reversing their earlier decision following written appeals from residents.

The 2019 publication, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” written and illustrated by Maia Kobabe, recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, according to multiple online sources.

committee created by RSU 56 officials to review the book in June said at the time that it was valuable for students, and directors decided to keep it in the library.

On Tuesday, Director Natalie Sneller of Canton said she was “a lot more concerned about how we encourage students to use the library; I’m a lot more concerned about keeping libraries relevant, and a place that our students utilize and want to go into.”

She also said the original policy the district has in place “was proven to be effective,” but she understood that the policy alone hasn’t satisfied the concerns of some of their board members and a large group of community members.

In other business, a Dirigo High School student was suspended from school after an executive session.

Board Secretary Cathleen Arsenault said Wednesday that the student will be back in school next week and “if the infraction happens again there may be another discussion.”

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