A parent Ayden and the Pitt County School District remain at odds over whether or not certain books are suitable for middle school students.
Following a special hour-long Board of Education hearing on Monday, the school board agreed to resume discussion later this month on three books that have been criticized for their sexually explicit content and profanity.
District media specialist Meredith Hill told council that although challenges with books are increasing across the country, she does not recall a local case in which a school decision regarding a book was made. appealed to the board of directors.
“All of the other challenges of the book in Pitt County schools since I’ve been here have been heard at the school level and decided at the school level,” she said. “There has never been another book that has reached the district level. “
“Forged by Fire” and “Darkness Before Dawn” by Sharon M. Draper, as well as “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, are expected to be on the agenda for the Council’s workshop meeting. January 17.
Parent Taylor Keith, who originally filed an objection against Ayden Middle School‘s use of the books in November, appealed to the school board after a selection committee upheld the school’s decision.
The school and committee said the books were in accordance with a district policy requiring teaching materials to be appropriate for students’ maturity level.
“Forged by Fire” includes a story in which a girl is sexually assaulted by her stepfather. In “Darkness Before Dawn,” the antagonist is a high school track and field trainer who rapes student athletes.
At the hearing, which drew more than a dozen spectators, Keith said he was not asking that Draper’s books be removed from the school library, although he said consent parents should be required for students to read.
Keith, who focused most of his commentary on “Forged by Fire,” criticized both books in Draper’s Hazelwood High trilogy for focusing on dark and disturbing topics that he said shouldn’t be left to students. to read and discuss in class. He stated that Scholastic Corp. lists “Forged by Fire” as appropriate for high school readers.
“A 13-year-old couldn’t go to the movies right now and watch an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian,” he said. “Yet this review committee apparently thinks rape is an acceptable topic for an eighth grade English teacher. … There is no way an English teacher would need to have this conversation with teenagers.
Pitt County Schools’ Policy 3210, which allows parents to challenge reading material, comes with a checklist that includes questions about the book, such as, “Is there a concern with sex, violence, cruelty, brutality or aberrant behavior that would make this material inappropriate for the intended audience? “
“You said no, which is insane,” Keith said. “It’s a book about a man who rapes his 13-year-old daughter.”
Hill told council that district policy allows students and parents to request another reading assignment if they object to the assigned content.
She said the novels are realistic works of fiction that reflect situations some students face. According to national statistics, she said 1,500 of the district’s 23,000 students may have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted by an adult.
“These are relevant topics,” Hill said. “If a student isn’t going through these things themselves, they’re going to school with someone who is.
“By labeling books that deal with difficult subjects as inappropriate or objectionable, we would essentially be labeling students who face these situations as inappropriate or objectionable,” she said.
District 9 Representative Benjie Forrest questioned the prevalence of blasphemy in “All American Boys,” a book about police brutality against an innocent black teenager.
“I read until I couldn’t take it anymore with the GDs and the F this and the F that,” he said. “If our standards are to try to teach young people how to behave and to be able to use acceptable language with standards of what good and decent language is,
“I can’t even believe the book exists. How the book even got to schools in Pitt County, I don’t know.
Hill cited research indicating that the average youngster uses 90 swear words a day and said more than 80% of young adult novels on the New York Times bestseller list contain name calling.
“The teacher chose this book because she was trying to interest students who were not interested in reading,” she said. “So she wanted to choose a book that would make the children feel like their lived experience and their language was reflected in the books they were reading.
“We’re not here just for college students with a typical lifestyle, what you would call your standard of living,” Hill said. “We are there for every child and every home experience they have. “
District 6 representative Worth Forbes and Forrest said the school board needs to review the composition of the selection committee responsible for determining whether the course materials are appropriate or not.
“There’s no way this book has to be on a Pitt County school shelf,” he said, referring to “All American Boys.”
“Everything I stand for as a citizen, I could not justify that a child read this book. I think that lowers the level of the kid, and I think our main goal as a board is to be uplifting and get our kids out of that mindset of thinking those vulgar words and d ‘hear that,’ Forbes said.
“I just think we’ve really exhibited something here that’s a beast. I really do. “