ACLU says school district should update decades-old policy

The district is currently looking for new members to sit on the district’s three material review committees.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina says it’s time for the Greenville County School District to take a look at a decades-old policy.

The district is currently looking for new members to sit on the district’s three material review committees. When someone submits a complaint about a book or classroom material, these committees decide if it stays or goes.

One requirement caught our attention: a clergy member must be included on the board.

The requirement dates back to 1994, according to a statement from the school district.

Policy requires one committee for high school complaints, one for middle school complaints and another for elementary school ones.

Each of those three boards must have: three parents, several teachers, one media specialist, two other people not employed by the district and one clergy member. The high school level committee must also include two students.

We combed through the policies for every district in the state and found Greenville County Schools is the only district to require a clergy member or to tie religion into committee at all.

Greenville County Schools Board of Trustees chairman Roger Meeks said he has never heard a complaint about the policy during his nearly three decades on the board.

We asked him if he thinks the requirement brings up an issue of keeping church and state separate and he told us he doesn’t think it does, adding the position is unpaid.

ACLUSC interim executive director Karen Dudley-Culbreath said they were made aware of the policy this week.

“It is an opportunity now for Greenville County Schools to align with other districts in the state,” Dudley-Culbreath said.

Greenville County Schools spokesperson Tim Waller said that since the material review committee was first established in 1980, a book has never been completely banned from schools. There have been a few times, he said, that a book has been restricted to certain age levels.

The most recent book to go before the committees was “Melissa,” a book by Alex Gino that was previously published as “George.” The high school, middle school and elementary school committees voted to keep the book in May, but a parent appealed that decision with the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees then voted to remove the book from elementary schools.