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TN teacher worries about what students are allowed to read at school

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – A Tennessee teacher is gone viral on TikTok with a video about the books your student is allowed to read at school.

The video centers on a new law that is causing controversy in the classroom.

The Age Appropriate Materials Act was adopted by the General Assembly earlier this year. Each school is now required to maintain an inventory of all library books to which students have access and to publish the list online for parents and the community to consult.

Sydney Rawls, a teacher at Murfreesboro City Schools, recorded the viral video while spending her Saturday taking inventory of books in her classroom library. The video now has over 1.5 million views on TikTok.

In the video, Rawls said some classrooms have thousands of books that a teacher deems appropriate for their students. However, all of these books are banned until they are catalogs, approved by the school librarian, and then posted online for parents to comment on.

“Kids here ask me, ‘Can I get a book and read? “, Rawls said in the video. “They’re so excited, and I have to say, ‘No, you can’t because I haven’t had a chance to go through them all. Catalog them, write them all down for them. send to someone who will tell me if he can or cannot read the books in my class library.

Murfreesboro City Schools released a statement on the new policy that a classroom library is considered the same as the main school library under the law. The school district said it is committed to upholding the law while supporting teachers.

“Our district has provided our teachers with great flexibility to meet this requirement and has not set deadlines to complete a classroom inventory,” said Lisa Trail, spokesperson for the City of Murfreesboro Schools. “However, we have presented several options that teachers can use. Options include creating a simple inventory list, using a book inventory app, or only using class books that are also in the school library. As a district, we will continue to support our teachers in their classrooms as they work daily to educate the students in our district. »

Tennessee Education Association President Tanya Coats said she’s been getting complaints from educators across the state about the new law that creates extra work and distracts from teaching reading students.

“We need to figure out how to alleviate some of the stresses that occur in this state in terms of students reading at the grade level instead of categorizing books that they are unable to read,” Coats said. “I know that’s not the intention. We want to make sure kids have books in their classroom, but just doing this tedious task is something that isn’t necessary.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said the law passed with widespread support from lawmakers, parents and community leaders across the state. The Department of Education has also issued guidance to teachers and local school districts on the easiest ways to comply with the law.

“It will likely be a lift to get that initial inventory in place,” Johnson said. “Once that is done and it is made available for parents to see and voice their concerns if they have any about the materials that are in that particular district. Then hopefully it will be a very positive thing for teachers and parents.

“As a former teacher myself, I like the idea that it provides some degree of protection for that teacher. The materials that are in the classroom have been made available to the public and parents and other stakeholders can see what is in the classroom. »

Coats said teachers across the state are working to eventually comply with the new law, but their main goal is to educate their students.

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