Instructional material questioned


There boardroom was packed full of concerned parents, grandparents and citizens from the West Liberty Advocacy Group for Public Education for the West Liberty Board of Education meeting Monday, July 18.

They group addressed the board of education during public comment. They took issue with materials they called pornographic students had available to them to view or check out from the school’s libraries.

Lisa Behnke was the first representative from this group to address the board of education.

“It really has become a matter of trust between the school and the community,” Behnke said. “Many community members have viewed and found this material extremely inappropriate, pornographic and obscene even when compared to the Iowa state law on obscenity 728.”

The state law defines obscenity as material depicting or describing genitals, sexual acts or masturbation, which the average person, taking the material as a whole and applying the community standards with respect to what is suitable to minors, would find this offensive, she said.

Another representative handed out the materials students could find in the districts libraries while Behnke was addressing the board of education.

“Our group has also studied (Board of Education) policy 603.7, teaching controversial issue and agrees with the policy’s definition of ‘a controversial issue is a topic of academic inquiry,’” Behnke said. “Obscene, pornographic material does not come close to be included in this definition of a ‘controversial issue’ – a topic of significant academic inquiry.”

The group also studied Board of Education policy 603.4, which discusses the selection of instruction material, she said.

“Selection is an ongoing policy process which should include the removal of material no longer appropriate,” Behnke said. “Pornography is never, and I mean never deemed appropriate, and must always be weeded out of our public school libraries.”

She asked for the board of education to conduct a review of the current collections in the school district’s libraries and remove them. She asked the books not to be given away and kept by West Liberty Superintendent Shaun Kruger to ensure students don’t get to take them home. Behnke then apologized for the material the board of education was going to view, calling it obscene and asked them to view it carefully.

Emily Daufeldt also spoke to the board of education as a member of the advocacy group.

“I realize that we are families who have lived in this community for generations,” she said. “We are families who have just moved to West Liberty. We are parents and grandparents of school children; overall community members who are positive and concerned about our community.”

The advocacy group has over 100 dedicated community members that continue to grow with a contingency of over 300 community members, she said. They spend hours reviewing school policies, instructional materials and professionalism in the district.

“What we are representing at this meeting has nothing to do with the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance student club) or the Rainbow Club organizations,” Daufeldt said. “We have discussed this at length and have discussed this with administrators. We do not have any phantom agenda to eliminate these student organizations.”

The focus is on the instructional materials that have damaging effects on students, on the individuals who brought the material into the school libraries and the individuals who have allowed the inappropriate material to remain in the school libraries, she said.

“Our focus is to protect our children from inappropriate instructional material that you personally have viewed at this meeting in front of us and the community at large,” Daufeldt added. “Our focus is the mental, emotional wellbeing of every student and to shield them from materials that will sear inappropriate images into their young minds, images they will carry on for a lifetime.”

Duafeldt told Kruger the advocacy group was supportive of him but asked him to get rid of the pornographic materials in the school district’s libraries. She also asked Kruger to hold the building principals accountable for the materials available for students to view in the libraries.

Dan Roush also addressed the board of education. He asked the board of education to support Kruger to weed out inappropriate materials.

“There is no threatening attempt here to oppress anyone’s freedom or to squelch controversial issues,” Roush said. “They remain intact and protected. This is a community wide attempt to provide the best instructional materials possible in line with the school district’s policy. The school board’s high standards, the administration, the teacher’s standards of professionalism and the West Liberty community’s high standards and expectations.”

Roush went on to repeat what Behnke and Daufeldt said about the materials being pornographic and offensive. He was cut off toward the end of his speaking because he was past the allotted time of four minutes allowed to each person during the public comment section of the board of education meeting.

The board of education didn’t address the public comments during the meeting because it wasn’t an agenda item.

Other news from the board of education meeting will be in the next week's issue of The Index.