Parents of Hermon High School students were asked earlier this year to decide whether their student should be allowed access to books in the school library containing mature or adult content — 82% said yes.
Students with restricted access will be prevented from checking out any of the 81 books that were identified as containing explicit or otherwise age-inappropriate content.
Out of 564 students, 466 were granted full access to the school’s library, while 45 were restricted by their parents from accessing any of the 81 flagged books.
No students were barred from utilizing the library in its entirety, and a number of permission slips were not returned to the school.
The principal announced over the summer that the books in question would be placed behind the circulation desk, and only students with the requisite parental permission would be allowed to access them.
56% of Hermon residents indicated support for a policy governing the availability of explicit content to students in the Hermon school system on a survey distributed earlier this year.
Although the Hermon School Committee has previously refused to adopt such a policy at a school-wide level, the move to require permission slips for students to access these materials gave parents the power to decide on an individualized basis what the most appropriate course of action was for themselves and their family.
This comes amidst a broader conversation — both in Maine and nationwide — over the nature of the content made available to children in school libraries.
A parent from Maine School Administrative District #51 (MSAD #51) brought poster boards containing excerpts from the graphic novel Gender Queer to a school board meeting in late September, but he was told to lower them because they were “inappropriate.”
Earlier this year, an eleven-year-old student in Maine made national headlines after reading graphic content from the book Nick and Charlie — which he had checked out of his school’s library — at a public school board meeting. The age rating provided by the book’s publisher is 14.
The student’s father also spoke at the meeting, criticizing the presence of Gender Queer in his son’s library — a book that has an age advisory of 18.
It is unclear whether more schools throughout the state will ultimately follow in Hermon’s footsteps by providing parents with a greater deal of freedom when it comes to their children’s ability to access content that they may or may not be prepared to encounter.