Books Approved with Warnings

Theron Luett, News-Brief Editor

On Monday, December 13 2021, the school board met for their bi-monthly meeting in which they decided the final vote to keep or ban two books that are a part of the high school English class curriculum. The books in question consisted of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.

Before voting on the action item, the board allowed a time for public comments, in which parents, students, and the Iowa Library Association spoke about their opinions of removing the books from class curriculum. “The only thing books like “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” teach is that the objectification and sexualization of women and teenagers is okay in the school’s eyes,” said Karen Bert, a parent quoting an anonymous 10th grade student.

Kaylee Jones ‘25 voiced her support for keeping the books and how these books contribute positive representation in the Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) community. “I am not here to force my political beliefs on any person here today… but I am here to push that the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” is a retelling of the experiences that many people of color relate to,” said Jones.

Concerns of many parents focused around the issue of whether the books were a required part of the student’s curriculum. “…I support the recommendation of the reconsideration committee and the superintendent and hope the board votes unanimously to allow the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie to remain a choice piece of curriculum for students,” said Jason Arnold. “I agree with the reconsideration committee that the district can do better on how they communicate the materials that will be presented in school courses… However, parents also have a responsibility to make sure they educate themselves on what their children are being taught.”

Michelle Veach, a parent in the district, read excerpts from “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” to support her disagreement towards the book’s “profanity and sexually explicit references,” said Veach. “My kid should not have to ask for a less offensive book to read… I am simply asking that they not be assigned as required reading,” said Veach.

Following Veach’s speech, there was a confrontation between audience members. In an attempt to gain control of the situation, Board President, Katie Fiala, called the meeting to a five minute recess. In that time police were called to help keep control of the situation. After calling the meeting back into order, Fiala promptly reminded the audience of public comment policy. More parents spoke on both sides of the topic.

“The committee does not recommend removing either book… Ideally, parents should be made aware of these books before they approve their children’s course schedule,” said Superintendent Laura Kacer. The Associate Superintendent of Teaching & Learning Nikki Roorda reassured the audience that “Regardless of the type of reading, there always, always is an option for families to choose an alternate text” and “…that communication is going to come out to families before every unit of study.” 

Board member Jennifer Chamberland then moved to approve the recommendation as written, and Vice President Alicia Clevenger seconded the move. But not all board members were in support of the books. “I do not support banning books. I do support parent choice,” said Clint Evans. “I don’t feel that with anything I’ve heard tonight with plans…we don’t know how we’re going to do it, we’d sure like to…nor these drafts, do they address the standard of what a parent would need to make that choice for their child…I won’t be able to support the recommendation tonight.”

After thoughts and feelings were voiced from each board member, votes were taken 4-3 to allow “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” to remain a choice book in the curriculum.