CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Book challenges and bannings have been a major topic of discussion in school districts across North Carolina. 

Some parents and community members have called into question books that contain mentions of sex, sexuality, race and other topics they find inappropriate for children. 

What You Need To Know

  •  Parents have been challenging books in school board meetings statewide based on content

  •  One UNC professor says book bannings have been common throughout the history of education

  • Professor Ethan Hutt says schools should proceed with caution before banning books from shelves

With a decade of experience teaching education at the collegiate level, professor Ethan Hutt says one of his biggest lessons recently is adapting.

“We want our students to be ready to engage the world as they find it. I think that’s our primary job as educators," Hutt said. 

Hutt's areas of expertise includes the history of education. 

He says oftentimes, education is cyclical, with many trends reoccurring throughout history.

The most prominent example of that lately is the banning of books. 

“Book banning has been part of American educational life since the beginning," Hutt said. "Because people disagree about the purpose of education, people disagree about what kind of content we should expose people to, what kind of books should be in the classroom and who really gets a say.”

An author himself, and a proponent of a well-rounded education, Hutt says limiting materials is a slippery slope. 

“When you start moving whole subject matters from the table, then it does restrict what our educators can do and what our schools can do for our future citizens," Hutt said. "Our future workers and students. That does become challenging.” 

Taking a stroll through the UNC bookstore, you'll find many books facing challenges, nationwide.

Hutt says removing these options takes away discretion from educators.

“When a student has that spark, has that interest, you would hope an educator would seize on that moment and say, 'this is something you can really dig into,'" Hutt said. "You don’t have to take my view of it, you don’t have to take your parents' view of it. You can really think about and weigh the evidence, and get deep into a topic.” 

Hutt advises everyone to take their time before considering taking any books off of school shelves. 

“Listen carefully and try to engage in solutions," Hutt said. "Historically, we have found ways to get past these really contentious moments and say, 'hey, maybe some books aren’t appropriate for some students.' Maybe some books, there’s an option here.”

Hutt says districts that are receiving complaints on books should consider an opt-out policy rather than vetoing the book for all children.