Archive for Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Book review committee underway

November 5, 2003

The review of a challenged book is now underway.

A committee comprised of seven Baldwin school district faculty and patrons met for the first time Monday to begin the review process of Robert Cormier's "We All Fall Down."

"This group represents the community," Baldwin High School Principal Allen Poplin said. "I think this group will reflect the views of the community as well as the views of the school board."

Following what's outlined in board policy, the review committee consists of Poplin as building administrator, Curriculum Director Connie Wehmeyer, BHS librarian Jana Jorn as the media specialist, BHS language arts teacher Jeanne Scott and BHS physical education teacher Susie Martin as the two required teachers and David Wagner from the high school site council and Cheryl McCrary from the junior high site council.

McCrary said she knew the committee members had a great responsibility not only to the district, but the community as well.

"To serve in this capacity, it's an important contribution," she said.

Poplin said at Monday's meeting, which lasted about three hours, the committee heard presentations both from the parent who originally filed the complaint as well as a student in favor of keeping the book in the classroom.

He said the committee also reviewed the teacher's reasons for using the book in class, and started discussing background materials and reviews about the author and the book.

McCrary said she's aware there might be varying opinions among the members, but hoped the committee could work together to come up with a recommendation about the book for the school board.

"I'm ready for productive dialogue," she said. "I think we need good, non-attacking, open discussion."

Poplin agreed committee members might not always be in agreement over the issue, but hoped they have open minds throughout the review process.

"We don't have to reach a consensus as in a unanimous decision," he said. "But I hope we can at least come together with clear cut majority and minority opinions."

The review committee will meet again at 7 p.m. today in the Baldwin High School library.

Poplin said he believed most of the committee's review work could be completed by tonight, leaving only the written recommendation to be completed.

"It is still our hope and my belief that we will be able to present the committee recommendation to the board Monday," he said.

This is the second attempt at having the recently challenged young adult book reviewed by a committee.

The Baldwin school board originally instructed a review committee to be formed when a complaint was filed about the Cormier novel, which was being read aloud in a BHS freshman orientation class.

But the board reversed its decision less than a week later, deciding a newer, clearer board policy for challenged instructional materials needed to be in place before a committee should review the book.

Then at the Oct. 27 meeting, the board decided the current policy could be followed for the challenged book if minor changes were made, and the review committee was reformed.

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