Kindergartener Goes Rogue with 'Poopy Pants' | Scales on Censorship

A students entertains classmates with a book some may find objectionable; an elementary principal nixes librarian readers' advisory. Pat Scales offers advice. 

A kindergarten student brought a copy of Poopy Pants (And Potty Rants) to school. The library doesn’t own the book. He managed to entertain several classmates before the teacher discovered what was happening. How should we handle situations like this?
I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. Clearly his parents bought the book for him, and you never want a student to think you are judging him, his parents, or a book. I would simply say, “I know you really like that book, and want to share it, but let’s put it in your backpack for now. We have something else to do as a class.” You might engage the boy in a conversation about the book. Why is it funny? What do you like most about the book? Why do you think some moms and dads may not like the book? Divert students’ attention to other books by having them pick a favorite one from the library or classroom collection to sell to their classmates.

There’s always the possibility that other parents will now seek out Poopy Pants for their children. If that happens, you can thank the boy who introduced his favorite book to his classmates. Should other parents complain, let them know how you’ve handled the situation.

[Also read: Dictionaries on the Chopping Block | Scales on Censorship]

The principal in my elementary school has demanded that all library programming be stopped. He also said that teachers and librarians cannot recommend books. Only parents are to recommend books to their children.
Does your district have someone whose job is to advocate for libraries? If so, make an appointment to see that person and report what is happening in your school. If there isn’t an advocate, you should talk with other librarians in the district. If you discover this request is unique to your school, then you have a rogue principal who cares more about avoiding controversy than educating children. I suspect he won’t last long as a principal. Let’s hope that parents complain that their children aren’t getting the library programming they are accustomed to receiving.

If you are completely miserable, then consider transferring to another school so that you can do the programs you are trained to do.

An English teacher in my school was teaching I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to her AP students. They were midway through the book when the principal told her she must immediately stop teaching the novel. She protested, but he told her that one parent complained, and he couldn’t afford to have unhappy parents.
This novel is commonly taught in AP English, and the students are going to wonder why they must stop reading it. Perhaps they should be nudged to voice a complaint to the principal. Their parents may step up once they hear what the principal has done. Why should one voice carry more weight than many voices? These school administrators should be held accountable for blocking teachers from teaching, and students from learning.

A suggestion: the teacher may encourage students to finish reading the novel on their own. Offer an independent study grade or bonus. She could offer writing prompts and open-ended questions to ponder. There is more than one way to reach a goal. A number of students will appreciate this opportunity. Others have the option to decline.

A large group of patrons has asked the library board to take LGBTQIA+ books off restricted shelves and place them in open library shelves. The director advised the board not to listen to these people and to continue making the materials available only on restricted shelves.

I have to wonder where she received her library degree, because she is violating all the principles of intellectual freedom. Libraries, and library directors, should remain viewpoint-neutral. It appears that the director is homophobic and expressing her personal views. She should know that a restricted shelf is a form of censorship.

All taxpayers should expect easy access to books and materials they need and want. This includes children and teens. Those who object to their children having access to these materials should go to the library with them and lead them to the books that meet their approval. We must reiterate over and over that the public library is for everyone. It sounds as if your library director doesn’t believe that.

Pat Scales is the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. Send questions to


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