KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Schools throughout Tennessee are working to update their policies and make information available with the Age Appropriate Materials Act, which was passed earlier this year.

Tennessee’s Age Appropriate Materials Act added chaos to the 2022-2023 school year as it began requiring each school governed by a Local Education Agency (LEA) and public charter schools to maintain a list of materials in the library collection. Schools are also required to adopt a policy for developing and reviewing materials in the library collection.

Knox County Schools released a statement explaining the schools’ process of following the law.

“Last week, [The Department of Education] issued guidance to districts that the Age Appropriate Materials Act applies to classroom libraries as well as school libraries. Essentially, this means that all materials available for student use should be a) appropriate for the age and maturity levels of those students, and b) transparently posted online,” the KCS release said.

The guidance released by the Department of Education on Aug. 11 explains the specific details for schools to follow the new law.

According to the law, Senate Bill No. 2407 of Public Chapter no. 744, schools are required to maintain a current list of materials in the school’s library collection, which must be posted on the school’s website.

The library collection is defined by the law as “the materials made available to the students by a school operated by an LEA or by a public charter school, but does not include materials made available to students as a part of the course curriculum.”

Department of Education explains that the “library collection” does not exclusively apply to materials housed in the library. It also includes materials in the classrooms.

“Please note that the definition of library collection is broad and is not limited to materials physically located in the school’s library. The definition applies to any materials, regardless of form, made available to students, including materials maintained in a teacher’s classroom,” the DOE memorandum stated.

The law states that the materials are detailed as “books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, prints, documents, microfilms, discs, cassettes, video tapes, videogames, applications and subscription content of any form.”

In KCS schools, classroom libraries are not required or mandated, but the school is working to support teachers who include them in the classroom.

At the same time, KCS stated its committed to compliance with the law, and safeguarding the students’ reading while respecting the classroom teachers’ time.

Reminders of the steps schools should have implemented into their selection of library materials, according to KCS:

  • Materials available for independent student use in classroom libraries should be appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who have access to them, as determined by the criteria in the Board of Education Policy I-211.
  • Materials with sensitive content, which may be appropriate during instruction guided by an adult but not during independent use by students, should be housed in a storage area intended only for educator access.
  • If a teacher is unsure or unconfident of the appropriateness of any item, they may choose to move it to an area not accessible to students and seek further guidance.
  • During students’ use of classroom library materials, our district’s Independent Reading Guidelines should be followed to deliver safe and positive reading experiences.

The Age Appropriate Materials Act has gotten some negative attention as it adds additional work to teachers, but KCS is welcoming parent and community engagement in the classroom and looking at the process as an opportunity to strengthen their collective practice in support of the students.

KCS is planning to work with TDOE for additional guidance to meet the compliance requirement by spring break of 2023.

The full KCS release is available here.

The Age Appropriate Materials Act also states that local boards of education must have a procedure to receive and evaluate feedback from students, parents or guardians or school employees regarding materials in the library’s collections.

There must also be a system to periodically review the library collection to make sure that the materials are age appropriate. If it is determined by the local board of education or charter school that a material is not age or maturity appropriate, the school must remove it from the library collection, according to the law.

At the beginning of the school year, WATE reached out to East Tennessee area school systems, and some confirmed that they are in the process of listing their classroom books and that they would be available online.

Sevier County Schools and Morgan County Schools reported that their schools were in the process of listing their library’s materials and the list would be available online.

Jefferson County Schools and Maryville City Schools both shared that their libraries have been previously cataloged and were online, but their teachers were working to catalog materials in their classrooms.

Alcoa City Schools, Anderson County Schools, Clinton City Schools, and Hamblen County Schools shared that their library materials were cataloged and could be accessed online.

Alcoa City Schools shared that they utilized Alexandria Online to store their materials list. To view their list, from the city schools home page, go to the page for the individual school. For the elementary and middle schools, the ‘Alexandria’ online link is available under the ‘Information, Links & Forms’ tab.

Anderson County Schools links to their curriculum list from the menu across the top of the home page through the ‘Curriculum/Library’ tab.

Hamblen County Schools has a School Library Books & Materials Collection listed under the ‘Parent/Students’ tab of the home page menu. The collection utilizes Destiny Discover.

Clinton City Schools library materials list is on the website, which also can be viewed through Destiny Discover. On the school home page, under the ‘Find It Fast’ tab, there is a ‘Library Online Database’ button.