Murray City School District ‘pauses’ its Equity Book Bundle Program and Equity Council

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MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A third-grader brought a book to school called, “Call Me Max.” It’s not an approved book by the Murray City School District, but because the teacher read it out loud, the district is questioning and reviewing its Equity Book Bundle Program and its Equity Council. The district says it is suspending both programs, but parents should think of it as a ‘pause.’

The MCSD has received a flurry of complaints about suspending the programs.

District officials say they are not canceling the programs, they just want to pause the programs to review them after getting complaints from parents.

“I find it really strange and upsetting, truly upsetting that the Equity Council would be paused because of a book brought in from home. The Equity Council did not bring this book to school. I personally as a parent think it’s a great book, says Murray City District 1 Councilmember Kat Martinez. ” I just feel it sends a terrible message to the LGBTQ+ community to pause this council for an incident that has nothing to do with them.”

Councilmember Martinez says she’s fielding calls from constituents who were upset with MCSD’s decision to pause and suspend its Equity Council and Equity Book Bundles over the book featuring an LGBTQ+ child.

“And by saying one thing happened that didn’t even have to do with you and we are going to pause your work, even if we are going to use the word pause, it sends a, really, terrible message,” she adds.

MCSD board members were read several letters from parents sounding off on the decision.

One parent wrote, “These teachings in public schools are vital to increasing awareness and putting an end to bullying, depression, and suicide.”

Another stated, “The recent events that have been brought to light demonstrated that a certain fraction of our district taught some of these sensitive topics to our children without the knowledge or consent of the parents. This is clearly in violation of existing laws, and also does not show [in audible] the parents in our district who are the major stakeholders in our children’s education.”

One letter read, “Regarding the equity council and the recent events, I find myself concerned for the rights of parents and families. I believe in equity, and being fair, and impartial, and helping every student achieve their highest potential.”

A committee, chaired by the Assistant Superintendent or an appointed person, and filled with parents and teachers will approve the district textbooks and software programs. This includes the Equity Book Bundle Program. Each item will go through a district adoption process that’s age-appropriate and challenges students’ literacy.

Councilmember Martinez says, “I hope that if it was just bad timing that they will go forward with some big policy shifts, in hiring that Equity Director and giving more support.”

Parents in the district can fill out a form, and ask the school to exempt their child from any required reading.

The school will have three choices at that point:

  • Waive the participation requirement
  • Provide alternative literature
  • Require participation as originally assigned.

District officials say many of the books on the Equity Book Bundle Program are available in the school’s library for students to check out. There is no timetable on when that program or the Equity Council will be back in action.

MCSD provided this statement on its Equity Book Bundle Program

The full statement from MCSD can be found below:

​”The Murray City School District Board of Education, Superintendent and District Office Administration promotes mutual understanding and respect for the interests and rights of all individuals. The Board also encourages its educators and members of the community to engage in efforts to eliminate prejudice, build trust, work toward consensus, and resolve disputes promptly, equitably, sensitively, and with civility at the local level.

The Equity Book Bundle program was launched in September 2020– it did not then or now include a book called “Call Me Max.” However, an incident where a student brought “Call Me Max” to school for a teacher to read triggered questions from parents about our Equity Council, which was created in late 2019, and the Equity Book Bundle program.

As there were many concerns expressed from parents, the Murray Board of Education made the decision to further examine both programs to ensure all literature introduced at Murray City School District follows clear policies and procedures. Further that our and the Equity Council’s mission, vision, and participants are better defined and to ensure it is inclusive and representative.

However, it should be pointed out:

  • The Book Bundle program was intended as a quick resource for teachers wanting to teach about diversity.
  • Teachers at Murray City School District can continue to use resource materials on diversity from our libraries just as they have in years past and as other teachers do at other school districts.
  • Therefore, suspension of the program should NOT be viewed as definitive or as a ban on books, but rather simply as a closer look at policies and procedures to do our diligence as educators reviewing any new program.
  • Murray City School Board Policy IN304 has guidelines for reviewing books used in classrooms, and will be used as a starting point to the review of the Book Bundle program.

Again, we are NOT removing materials that have been in circulation in previous years – many of which were included in the Equity Book Bundle program.

The following titles are appropriate to use at the school level (as in years past) and in conjunction with instruction during Black History Month. A full review of the books in the Equity Book Bundle will take time and we do not want to miss out on this important educational opportunity.

  • What Was the March on Washington? (Kathleen Krull)
  • What Was the Underground Railroad? (by Yona Zeldis McDonough)
  • Who Was Rosa Parks? (by Zeldis McDonough)
  • Who Was Frederick Douglass? (by April Jones Prince)
  • Frederick’s Journey – The LIfe of Frederick Douglass (by Doreen Rappaport) Of Thee I Sing (By Barack Obama)
  • Black is a Rainbow Color (by Angela Joy).”

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