PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The future of books in classrooms is now taken up by another Oregon school district after parent complaints surrounding five books that are used in high school classrooms.
On Tuesday evening, Dayton community members and a committee heard from the person who filed the complaint and a district language arts teacher who uses some of these books in the classroom, but a decision as to their future is ultimately up to the superintendent.
The meeting stemmed from parent concerns over graphic language used in some of the high school’s language arts curriculum.
Because a complaint was made, district policy is to address any concerns with materials and if requested, form a reconsideration committee that can hear both sides, make a collective decision and give their recommendation to the Dayton superintendent on whether the books should be removed from the classrooms, or even assigned to higher grades. Those facilitating the meeting were adamant though that this is not a book ban and that the complaint is not asking for books to be removed from the school library altogether.
The five books brought into question include:
- “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
- “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls
- “Sold” by Patricia McCormick
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
- “All-American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
“Why can’t our classroom curriculum be the one place where our young people aren’t exposed to R-rated content? Again, I’m not asking for these books to be removed from the school,” said Karalee Johnston, who filed the complaint. “I’m questioning if these books are really the best choice for our whole class instruction.”
During the presentation, both sides made their case to the eight-person committee made up of four community members, a librarian, an administrator, a teacher and a student.
“Kids understand that those swear words that they’re reading are authentic to their own voices,” said Jennifer Shadden, a teacher at Dayton High School. “Explaining complex topics like sexuality, violence, substance abuse, suicide, and racism through characters lets kids contemplate and empathize in a safe setting.”
The superintendent does have the authority to make their own decision regardless of the committee’s recommendations, but the person who filed the complaint also has the option to take concerns before the school board if they don’t like the superintendent’s decision.
This comes as books in schools have been at the forefront of heated debates.
Last month, the Canby School District removed “Lolita” from its library shelves. Dozens of other books were temporarily removed back in the spring but after strong reactions from parents and students, some of the other books, except for “Lolita”, are available only at the high school, including some with newly added content alerts.
About half of the committee members did ask for more time before making a decision. The committee then went into a private discussion where the community members in the room were asked to leave. The district did clarify ahead of time that a vote would be made by secret ballot.
Just before 10 p.m., the private meeting wrapped up and the committee’s facilitator confirmed to KOIN 6 that while a decision was ultimately made amongst the committee, they weren’t able to reveal what the decision was when it came to their recommendation.
The answer will come from the superintendent and KOIN 6 will continue to follow up.