St. Joseph Public Schools committee to keep challenged books on library shelves

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BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - A number of books that were seen as controversial by a parent complaint will not be taken off library shelves at St. Joseph Public Schools after a special review committee determined the books were important for high school students' learning.

A special committee was assigned to review the parent's challenges to 13 books, which they claimed were too sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate for students to read.

The committee, made up of administrators, teachers, and parents, decided the books were of high quality and contained important information for high school students. They will, however, allow parents to opt their children out and label certain books as young adult or adult.

The books that were challenged included the following:

  • "What Girls are Made of"
  • "Blankets"
  • "Gender Queer"
  • "Freedom Writers Diary"
  • "Slaughterhouse Five"
  • "Tricks"
  • "Crank"
  • "People Kill People"
  • "Lawn Boy"
  • "Sold"
  • "Lucky"
  • "Push"
  • "This Book is Gay"
  • "The Lovely Bones"
  • "Tilt"

The books "Lawn Boy", "Gender Queer", "This Book is Gay", and "Blankets" were not reviewed because they are not in circulation within the school corporation.

According to the school corporation's policy manual, parents or guardians have the right to file a complaint about controversial reading material or media.

When the form is submitted, a review committee gathers to evaluate the material, examining the material as a whole and not based on passages pulled out of context, weighing strengths and weaknesses, its relevance to curriculum, and more.

The review is then submitted to the school board and the complainant.

In a statement to ABC57, Superintendent Dr. Jenny Fee said, "the decision of the Book Review Committee ensures students have access to books that are important to their growth, development, and preparation, and that serve the district's mission to develop students who are able to consider the perspectives of others, employ empathy, assess and evaluate issues and ideas, and who become active, informed, and contributing citizens in their communities and in our diverse society."

Disclosure: ABC57's Brian Conybeare is the brother of Barry Conybeare, school board president of St. Joseph Public Schools.

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