Tri-Village News

Concerns over book's content may spur district policy shift

Some parents say coming-of-age novel not appropriate for freshmen


Grandview Heights City School District Superintendent Ed O'Reilly will conduct a review of the district's process for selecting books used in classes after receiving e-mails from high school parents concerned about a novel currently being read by freshmen.

A number of parents raised objections last week to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky. The book tackles issues such as abuse, drugs and sexuality and includes an explicit date-rape scene.

O'Reilly said he heard from some parents who did not believe the issues raised in the book were appropriate for a ninth-grade English class. Other parents expressed concern that the book might be potentially banned.

An anonymous freshman sent out an e-mail to community members and school board members Friday, Nov. 23, suggesting the parents' concerns about the date-rape scene in particular would lead to the book being banned from the classroom.

In an e-mail blast O'Reilly sent to parents Monday, Nov. 26, he said he understands both sides of this issue, but added neither he nor the school board have banned the book for student use.

Since students already are about halfway through reading the book and have begun to discuss it in class, O'Reilly has asked English teacher Kevin Hunt to complete the unit on the novel as planned, he said.

An alternate assignment will be offered to any student whose parent would prefer he or she not finish the book, O'Reilly said, adding that "this book and other supplemental materials used in our classrooms will be re-evaluated prior to future use."

The issues raised have led him "to take a closer look at the process the district uses to approve supplemental reading material for our high school and middle school classrooms," O'Reilly states in the e-mail.

He said he will ask teachers and administrators to assist him in evaluating the district's book-selection process.

Recommendations to change district policy will be made to the school board in open session, he said.

Unless there is an emergency situation, any change in policy is introduced and given a first reading by the board and not voted on until the next month's board meeting, O'Reilly said in an interview.

"That gives the community time to give their input on the proposed policy change," he said.

"This issue is not one of censorship," O'Reilly said. "It is an age-appropriateness issue -- what is the appropriate age to introduce certain topics and issues to students through the supplemental materials used in the classroom."

Current policy states the school board delegates to administrators and teaching staff the authority to recommend instructional and supplemental materials and that materials for classrooms are recommended by the appropriate professional staff in consultation with the superintendent and other sources as needed. Parents have the right to inspect any instructional materials used as part of the educational curriculum for their student.

A policy about teaching controversial issues states that if parents wish their child be excused from participating in a discussion of such material, arrangements are made to respect that request.

O'Reilly said the review of the book-selection process likely will take a couple of months, and it probably will be February before he will bring any recommendations to the board.