Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Book isn’t banned … yet

September 10, 2003

If Supt. James White has anything to do with it, the book "We All Fall Down" by Robert Cormier won't be used as part of freshman orientation class at Baldwin High School anymore.

If School Board Member Stacy Cohen has anything to do with it, the book will be used and she's not pleased with the policy that allowed White to basically "ban" the book Monday after two parents complained.

Somewhere in the middle ground, the entire board of education decided at Monday's meeting to call a special meeting for Sept. 22 to allow board members enough time to read and review the book. At that special meeting, a decision will be made on whether the book will be allowed as part of the curriculum or not.

Monday's lively discussion started after Lori Krysztof, district patron as well as teacher in the Baldwin district, used the audience participation portion of the agenda to thank White for his quick response in removing the book as part of the class after he received a letter of complaint from her Monday morning.

"The book has been removed at this time," said Ed Schulte, board president, in response to Krysztof.

That's when Cohen jumped in.

"I have a problem with that," said Cohen. "As a former English teacher, I have a problem with banning books. I would hope we would review this before banning the book."

"It was a judgment call by Mr. White," said Schulte. "It is being put on hold at this time."

"Interrupting a teacher's curriculum is wrong," said Cohen.

"I agree, let's get on this," said board member Scott Lauridsen. "Let's figure out how to resolve this."

"I support the administration pulling this book and I agree we should review it and the policy," said board member Blaine Cone.

White then explained his reasoning.

"After reading portions of the book, I determined I wouldn't want my daughter or grand daughter reading this literature," he said.

The book examines "teen-age issues," such as alcohol abuse, emotions surrounding divorce and others. It uses explicit language and sexual references. It was being read aloud in the freshman orientation class and being compared with a film involving similar issues.

The board will make the determination on the book and the policy at the 7 p.m. Sept. 22 meeting at the district office. However, new Curriculum Director Connie Wehmeyer wanted to make it clear that although it had been removed as part of the class, it was still available.

"We're not banning the book," Wehmeyer said. "It's not about censorship. The book is still in the school and can be checked out."

Cohen reminded the board about other books that have been banned, which include classics such as "Of Mice and Men," "Huck Finn," I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "The Chocolate War" and even the highly popular Harry Potter series.

"I don't know that banning books is ever the answer," she said. "Maybe it shouldn't be taught at that age. I am very upset that the book was pulled from the class. I'm appalled that it was done that quickly.

"The book was pulled without the board reviewing it based on two parents complaining," said Cohen. "I don't get that at all."

In an otherwise normal meeting, the board heard from consultant Bill Bray regarding a new phone system for the district. Bids and other information was given to the board and other questions were raised. No decision was made.

Two fairly hot topics in the district were touched on: the playground at Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center and the new lunches throughout the district. Building and grounds supervisor John Gottstein said he didn't know when the playground would be completed.

"I did get started on the playground at the new school," said Gottstein. "We haven't gotten very far, but we should have something in the air prior to the open house. I hesitate to give a time when it will be completed. It's going to be time consuming."

As for school lunches, especially at the high school, concerns have been raised about the portions and the time it takes to feed all the students. White said the new lunches must be popular because they have been feeding more than 400 students a day through the line, which is much higher than the 280 or so before. As for the portions, White said students shouldn't be going hungry because they are allowed all the fruit they can eat.

"My son's comment to that is he's not a vegetarian, he wants meet," said Cone, which brought a round of laughter.

Wehmeyer also briefed the board on what's being done regarding district curriculum, district assessments and plans to meet Annual Yearly Progress in the future. The district has been put on notice because of a lack of progress with students with disabilities. She outlined what is being done there, as well as with the general student population which had exceeded AYP.

The board also discussed going to two meetings a month instead of one, but no decision was reached there, either. Board goals were touched on, too, but that discussion is to take place later on.

Following an executive session of around 45 minutes, the board approved the following employment recommendations: Rita Tutschulte, elementary librarian; Carol Landis, elementary music teacher; Kim Heckathorne, elementary physical education; Sheryl Drew, Baldwin Junior High School para-professional; Ted Zuzzio, BJHS assistant volleyball coach; Shana Schroeder, BJHS cheerleader sponsor; Kathy Miller, BJHS yearbook sponsor; Kathy Davis, Baldwin High School fall play director; Aaron Anderson and Tim Berg, BHS assistant football coaches; Witt Hinton and Jarrod Steffans, BHS assistant wrestling coaches; and Deana Perdue, BHS evening custodian.

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