Monday, July 17, 2006

Olentangy School District

A parent complaint in the Olentangy School District (Ohio) has resulted in the pulling of a reading list for some high school students. Here is an excerpt from the story in the Dispatch:
...Olentangy Superintendent Scott Davis rejected two of four books recommended to students entering Liberty’s 10 th-grade college-prep English class. Reading any of them is voluntary....

....The Sebold novel, published in 2002, opens with a rape-and-murder scene and is narrated by the 14-yearold victim from her perch in heaven. The Haddon book, which came out in 2003, is a murder mystery narrated by an autistic 15-year-old boy, prone to expressing himself with profanities.

"If you go to and enter the F-word in the search there (for the Haddon book), you will come up with 12 pages (with) the F-word (on it) and 13 more pages if you add -ing to it," said Barbara Reierson, whose son will be entering Liberty’s 10 th grade this fall. When the school’s principal did not honor her request to remove the book, Reierson said, she took her case to Davis.

"There are 14 pages with derogatory references to Jesus, eight pages with the S-word, and 16 pages of (profanities related to) God," Reierson said. "But I only found one d-a-m-n and thought, ‘Well, I got off easy there.’ "

Reierson tried to enlist the aid of Kris Proper, whose daughter also will be entering the 10 th grade at Liberty this fall. Proper said Reierson urged her to check the Haddon book’s profane content using the search engine and to protest its selection for the reading list.

"Instead, I went and bought the book," she said. "I thought it was very compelling. To see things from the perspective of someone who is disabled was great."...

The parent who made the original fuss did not read the book. She had no idea about the storyline, only that the book had "bad words." From my perspective as a former teacher, the parent does have the right to ask for an exemption for her son/daughter to read an alternative book. However, how can the parent judge a book when she has not read the book????

Several years ago, before I retired, my teaching assignment was changed from one grade level to another. I had to spend a summer reading about 50 books. I read each book, created vocabulary lists, outlined each chapter, made review sheets for each chapter, produced creative writing activities for each book, and composed tests for each book. It was a busy summer. Then, in the class room, materials had to be adapted for individual student learning styles.

It appears that the parent in the Olentangy district does not understand the process used in choosing books and working with them in the classroom. Some of these parents haven't spent a lot of time recently inside a high school classroom. I'd suggest that before parents start complaining that they spend two full days observing a high school literature class. The personal attacks on the teachers must stop!

I'd suggest that those parents who are so concerned about the contents of the high school reading lists start reading the books instead of just criticizing. In this way, parents can speak out of knowledge instead of ignorance.