Jan 5, 2007

Unbanned book is unpulled from high school

A book that was banned by Howell Public Schools from its advanced 10th grade English class because of alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts was approved for use by the high school’s English and language arts teachers, according to an article in today’s edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The approval for the book, “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" comes just the day before a movie based on it is released in theaters starring Academy Award Winner Hiliary Swank.

The book has been a source of controversy for the past couple of months, and its has not helped Livingston County’s image as an intolerant place that discriminates and shuns diversity and other opinions. The school district has taken exception to the word banned, and they say it was just “pulled” for further review after a few parents complained about the book. I’m not all that sure what the difference is between banned and pulled, but apparently there is a difference even if the result is the same.

What this approval by the teachers means is a little unclear to me, or why the approval is news. Late last month the newspaper reported that 17 English teachers at Howell High School signed a statement that said the book was approved and used as a supplemental part of the curriculum by the Howell High School English department last year. Isn’t this new approval what they just did for the second time?

The article today said the district's Curriculum Council had the final approval, and the council meets next week. What the article does not say is who is on the Curriculum Council. Is it all teachers, all administrators or both? Are there any parents on the council or any of the elected school board members? Does the elected school board have any say in the matter?

Today’s article goes on to quote Marybeth Roose, the district's director of community education and communication, as saying parents have the option of choosing another book if this one offends them, but that option has always been there, and it was there before this entire flap began.
"They (parents) are encouraged to contact the instructor, express that concern and a replacement could be assigned," she said. "It would be a book that would achieve the same outcome in terms of instruction, but do it in a different way."

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