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Hermon School Committee votes to keep library policy without age restrictions

The vote comes after months of deliberation between parents and committee members.

HERMON, Maine — After months of back and forth between parents and school leaders in Hermon, the school committee has voted to keep the policy they have drafted; and not implement a proposed rating system. 

This vote comes in opposition to parents asking to implement age-appropriate standards in the school's libraries; filtering out what some claim are sexually explicit materials found in certain books. 

Many parents for the rating system encouraged committee members to push back the second reading of the policy again, to fall back on subcommittees and further review what that rating system would look like. 

"'That's the way we have always done it, isn't going to move the school system forward," Josh Henderson said in a public comment. 

Parents handed out a printed list to meeting attendees of over 80 books which they claim to contain explicit material, sourcing the website "Book Looks." Books deemed inappropriate by the group included "Tricks" by Ellen Hopkins and "Milk and Honey" by Rupi Kaur. 

Others opposed, claiming the standards would pose a threat to access to certain materials if a student met an appropriate maturity level. 

"There are too many different life experiences and maturity levels...to make general rules or ratings," public librarian and parent Holly Williams said. 

Multiple students attended the meeting as well, expressing how multiple books with sensitive materials translated to a positive learning experience.

"Many of the friends I have within this school have experienced things within these books," student Nina Bowers said. "Almost all of them take comfort in these books, not some form of terror. To them, it makes them feel like their experiences are valid." 

In place of the standards, Superintendent Micah Grant proposed the possibility of appealing books by category rather than singling them out, for parents to opt out for their children in the future.  

Organizing the age standards push is Regina Leonard, who said although the committee voted to keep a policy with no standards, the group is not satisfied with the end result. 

"I don't think they understand that we're not gonna stop, it's been over a year. We'll have to regroup and we'll have to decide collectively what our next move is going to be," Leonard said. "We have taken the effort and taken the time to be at every single meeting to try to get them to listen, and do the right thing."

NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Hermon Superintendent Micah Grant, who gave a statement saying:

"The district believes that parental involvement and choice is paramount to a student's educational experience and a key ingredient to academic success. Our policy places the discretion and rights of what a student should access back to the parents. We hope with this parental opt out language, parents and students will engage meaningful discussion around values when it comes to the literature they elect to consume.

"Our current policy (IJJ) aligns with Maine statute and the approved draft of IJJ adds and strengthens our parental opt out language. It also keeps a process in place for individual books to be challenged. In addition, we plan on creating a filtering system for parents to find titles by potential subject matter they may find controversial, which should improve the opt out process."

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