Wake County Schools Revise Book Policy
(06/22/06 -- RALEIGH ) (WTVD) -- Wake County school officials revised their book-use policy Tuesday which could lead to some popular and classic books being banned from their public schools.
Called2Action, a local Christian activist group, and some parents were upset that their children were required to read books like "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker and "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, complaining that the books contain "vulgar and sexually explicit language."
Parents have objected to graphic depictions of things like rape, saying they should have been informed of the assignment ahead of time.
School board members met with school administrators and recommended a revision of the existing book-use policy. Administrators then created a new policy to appease the angry parents.
School officials said five books were formally challenged this school year, including classic books and popular children's books: "The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier, "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green, "Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky, Peaky Spying" by Barbara Park, "Reluctantly Alice" by Phyllis Reynolds and "In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak.
With the new policy in effect, teachers will be required to provide parents with reading lists and obtain permission to use certain books in the classroom. Administrators say most teachers already provide parents with reading lists at the beginning of each school year.
The changes affect middle and high schools and require teachers to fill out forms requesting permission from their principal to use material not previously approved by the district. Teachers also must provide reviews from professional sources and explain why they need to use the book in their classrooms. Additionally, they will have to identify possible challenges that may come up during lessons such as sexuality, violence, adult language, and ethnic issues.
Some teachers are upset that these new requirements will create an extra burden on already overloaded teachers, and cause some books to no longer be used.
Obtaining book lists would provide parents with time to request an alternate assignment, request the book be removed from the classroom, or simply discuss the book with their children.
"Personally doesn't bother me," said parent Betsy Creech, who also said she doesn't mind the new book policy.
It's not that she doesn't want her kids reading the books, she said, but a book list would provide her ample time to discuss a controversial work with her children before they enter the classroom.
Joy Bisesi, who has two children in public schools, says requiring teachers to notify students with book lists is patronizing.
"If we don't allow them the freedom to choose the materials that they feel are appropriate we're doing our children a disservice," said Bisesi.
"In the Night Kitchen," a children's cartoon book by author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, contains a picture of a naked boy with what appears to be genitalia.
Opponents of the policy doubt that principals will approve most of the books, possibly for fear of more controversy.
Bisesi says she's afraid the new policy could be the first step to censorship.
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