Book controversy invades Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting
FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — At Wednesday’s meeting of the Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) Board of School Trustees, a discussion about the upcoming appointment to the Hamilton East Public Library Board of Trustees sparked enough controversy that the board took a recess and suspended all further public comments for the remainder of the night.
The HSE school board had chosen to take public comments with each agenda item as it came up, rather than have a separate time exclusively for comments from those in attendance.
The controversial issue was the upcoming appointment by HSE Board President Janet Pritchett on Aug. 11 to the Library Board.
During the meeting, Pritchett said this person will be not be an appointment voted on by the entire board, but will be “someone appointed by the board president.”
Only four citizens were given the opportunity to speak Wednesday evening.
Tiffany Eggers spoke briefly to the board, asking the that appointee be someone focused on finding books that “meet the needs and values of the community.”
Shannon Fields, in her time at the microphone, wanted to address specific books found on library shelves and was told by Pritchett, “That’s not about the appointee, we are talking the specific person that we are appointing. If you have any information on that, we would gladly listen further, otherwise just please stick to the topic.” Fields then stepped away from the microphone and rejoined the audience.
Lilli Hazard spoke next, asking that the board find someone who would promote transparency, who would be open, and who would focus on filling the library with age-appropriate material that aligns with values taught at home. Hazard’s comments were met with applause.
When Barbara Shaub spoke, the meeting took an interesting turn.
“I echo that I, too, am concerned about who is the appointee to the library because I do believe that we have to be careful as far as making books appropriate in the library for children,” Shaub said. She then went on to speak about a book she found in the Fishers Library that day.
Her complaint was about a book titled When Aidan Became a Brother, an award-winning children’s picture book about a transgender boy.
When Pritchett asked Shaub to talk about the appointee, rather than about specific books in the public library, Shaub responded with, “You will not be a dictator. I am a grandmother of 11 children, five in this school district.”
Within seconds, her microphone was muted. Moments later the board called a recess and walked out. A splash screen on the video feed read, “The meeting has ended due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Later, the meeting reconvened and Pritchett said, “We are suspending public comment for the rest of the meeting.”
Pritchett then announced, “Those interested in being appointed to the library board should send a letter of intent or interest on why you would be a good appointment with your name, address and phone number. You email that to Denise from Aug. 1 through the 7th. After that, in the Aug. 11 board meeting, we will announce the appointment.”
She did not give Denise’s last name or email address, but The Reporter believes this may have been in reference to Denise Justice, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to suspending all public comments for the rest of the night, the following were agenda items no citizen had the opportunity to speak about:
· Teacher Appreciation Grant.
· Policies for a Second Reading including the following: Mission Statement, Board Meetings, Broadcasting of Board Meetings (and all other meetings where action items are anticipated).
· Resolution Regarding Plans for 2021-2022 Return to In-Person Instruction.
· Superintendent’s Report. The video of the July 28 HSE board meeting can be seen online.