Disposal method criticized for outdated books

Ryan Swanson said the sunset was beautiful but the sight of dumped books behind Sunrise Middle School was ugly.

Calling a dumpster full of history books behind Sunrise Park Middle School “disgusting and sickening” on social media, a father of two is watching his post go viral. 

When he heard that hundreds of history books were piled in an outside recycling bin at the school, Ryan Swanson jumped in his car to see for himself. The sight made him emotional, he said. 

“Books regarding our flag, those that served and our Constitution should never be placed in the trash,” Swanson stated. “The books included black history and civil rights, Native Americans, the Holocaust; even Mister Rogers was in the dumpster. All were nonfiction.”

Well aware that he’s “caused a ruckus,” Swanson’s July 10 Facebook post has been shared at least 10,000 times, much of that through a group called Minnesota Rising. “It ticked people off to see these books in the dumpster,” he said.

Shortly after his lament appeared, Sunrise Principal Christina Pierre posted this explanation to parents on the district website:

“We are aware that you may have seen a recent social media post made by a community member that has been circulating. The post contains a photo of outdated library books in our recycle bin, as Sunrise’s media specialist was recently weeding through the collection. 

“Before removing the outdated books, the proper book disposal protocol was followed by checking in with partner organization ‘Better World Books’ to donate as many of the materials as possible, giving books to teachers in the district for classroom purposes and distributing them to Little Free Libraries placed throughout the White Bear area. Additionally, Sunrise’s media specialist had also reached out to multiple other organizations to donate books that either didn’t meet a specified criteria because of the outdated content, required a fee or aren’t accepting donations with COVID-19 restrictions.”

Pierre assured parents the school community places “great value” on repurposing outdated materials (10 years and older). She added that the weeding procedure is important to ensure that materials are keeping up to date with the needs of ever-changing curriculum, school goals and student needs.

Swanson said he found the district response unsatisfactory and spoke to Pierre directly to explain why he was upset. “I wanted to make a point that the district should have offered them to the community. I brought a bunch of books home and my 3- and 6-year-olds thought they were cool. Another couple was filling bins with books to send to children in Africa. There was a better way to handle this.”

Added Swanson, “I explained to Ms. Pierre that perception is everything, especially in these trying times. The country is divided for more reasons than George Floyd. I told her the timing was terrible and that it appears to be trying to wipe away history. I suggested the next time they purge, they notify our community first using the internet. She agreed it could have been handled better and promised to work with the community first regarding these situations in the future.”

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