On March 20th, the Olentangy Local School District approved its new policy on literature selections.
According to the school's press release on the policy:
...parents who request information on literature selection will receive a review document. On that review document, parents will find a summary of the selection, its connection with state, national or district standards, the instructional rationale, alternate recommended reading assignments and literary reviews. Most of the information populating the document is from third-party external sources and reviews such as the School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly or the National Secondary Library Association. Other information, such as the relationship to the district’s curriculum maps, will be linked to district resources.
As quickly as one can say Webster's Dictionary, this policy has been used by the School Administration to remove another important book that our high school aged kids should be given the opportunity to read and discuss in the classroom.
The book, Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, was removed from the Olentangy Liberty freshman reading list because it was "not an appropriate selection for school due to controversial nature of some the content."
According to an unnamed source close to the story, the decision to remove the book was based on a single complaint Barbara Reierson, who brought about the decision last summer to remove two books from the OLSD summer reading list.
If the school administration were abiding by its policy, it would have found that the School Library Journal has discussed the merits of this specific book. In an article about censorship, the SLJ writes that older students deserve to have access to (the book). If the novel is removed from the state’s high school libraries without a formal challenge, and without due process, then censorship has occurred. School administrators should be reminded of Island Trees Union School District No. 26 vs. Pico, a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that books could be removed from school libraries only if they were “educationally unsuitable.”
In its review of the book, the School Library Journal writes Charlie develops from an observant wallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins to face the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life will engage teen readers for years to come."
As a parent, I want my child to understand these issues as teenagers as it will only make them a better adult in the years ahead. The lost opportunity to not have high school students discuss important topics like this leaves them to gossip about about whether Sanjaya is, or isn't any good for American Idol.
The decision to pull this book comes on the heels of a controversy over the two High School newspapers in the district. The most worrisome of quotes coming from the board member, Julie Wagner Feasel, who said "I am not in favor of censorship, but in journalism, you have to take into account your community standards, and it is all right for the students to learn that what is OK for publication in Berkeley, Calif., may not be OK in Holmes County, Ohio."
That's the kind of ridiculous comment that will chase away any creative and intelligent person or business from this district and the region. Imagine the reaction of someone from a high tech or research company researching the area and reading such a statement from one of our elected officials -- one would scratch the Columbus area off their short list pretty quickly. And besides, we're in Delaware County NOT Holmes County.
Such closed thinking is quite worrisome coupled with the influence of Ms. Reierson causes one to shutter more than a little bit.