LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

The Initial Complaint
The reconsideration process begins when you first receive a complaint. This is likely to be an informal verbal complaint from a parent or community member. Respond to this complaint as compassionately and calmly as possible. Thank the complainant for bringing the work to your attention. Explain your school or district policy regarding requests for reconsideration. If the complainant has a relationship with a particular student, offer to allow the complainant to accompany that student to the library and help him or her select appropriate reading materials.

Avoid attempting to justify the inclusion of the material to the complainant, if at all possible. Ensure that the complainant feels heard, respected, and taken seriously. Ask the complainant for some time to review the work and to move on to the next step of the process. Lofty descriptions of students’ right to read or the principles of intellectual freedom will not likely be of assistance at this point.

The Informal Reconsideration Process
If, as is the case in many schools and districts, the next step of the process is that the principal will attempt to settle the matter informally, position yourself as a consultant. Examine the work. Prepare a report for your principal explaining the local policy and justifying the work’s inclusion in the collection. Consider developmental appropriateness, inclusion in major selection sources, and any other selection criteria listed in your selection policy. (See the Paperwork page for an example of such a report.) Allow the principal to handle further communication with the complainant, if possible. Positioning yourself as a consultant and allowing the principal to be the decision-maker enables you to present a clear assessment of the work’s value, allows you to feel that you are defending your students’ intellectual freedom, but protects you from being threatened by anyone who might declare you as being inappropriately activist in your decision to retain the materials.
The Formal Reconsideration Process
If the complainant is unsatisfied with the principal’s decision, he or she may wish to file a formal complaint. Review the process again. Provide him or her with a packet including an introductory letter, a copy of relevant policies, a copy of the Library Bill of Rights, and the Request for Reconsideration form. (See the Paperwork page for an example of such a packet.)
The Committee Process
If the complainant submits the completed Request for Reconsideration form, you will need to convene a committee. Work with your administrators to determine who will be responsible for recruiting members of the committee. The committee should consist of yourself, at least one administrator, at least one teacher, and at least one parent. Secure copies of the work for all members of the committee. Provide a packet of information for each committee member including instructions to the committee members, any information you gave the principal in your initial report, full text of relevant reviews, and the Library Bill of Rights. Determine who will write the committee report.
The Committee Report
If you are responsible for writing the committee report, include the time and date of the committee meeting, the names and positions of the committee members, a brief summary of opinions shared and the discussion, and a summary of the final decision. Provide this report to your principal. It is the principal’s responsibility to file the report with anyone else who requires it and to notify the complainant of the committee’s decision.
Beyond the Committee
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the committee’s decision, there is usually an appeals process in place. In some districts, this will mean appealing to the school board and the superintendent. In independent schools, it will necessarily look different. Once the appeals process begins, you will probably have little control over what happens next. Accept that you did your best and wait to see what the results of the appeal are. If you are called upon to provide testimony regarding your school’s decision, use the same resources you used before to justify the work’s inclusion in your collection.
If the Work Is Removed
If, as a result of the appeals process, the work is removed, you can contact organizations like the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union, or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for further assistance.