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UPSD Approves Policy for Challenging Resource Materials
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2021-11-03

            The Upper Perkiomen School Board approved a new policy to challenge resource materials in the district. Last week, the members voted to ratify Policy No. 109AR.

            According to Superintendent Allyn Roche, the action spells out the selection criteria for the district's use of resource materials. He said during the Oct. 28 workshop meeting that it also offers parents a formal challenge option.

            After the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina confirmed the policy came about because of the recent discussion related to four high school library books. She said the policy created a formal review sheet, which has been posted on the district's website.

            According to Farina, administrators cannot begin an official review of any book until the district has received an official complaint. She said that once a complaint has been received, officials have 20 school days to complete their review.

            Two weeks earlier, after a handful of residents asked the board to remove the books from the library on the claim that they were a bad influence on children, Farina announced that she and a team of administrators – consisting of Superintendent Allyn Roche, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kimberly A. Bast, high school Librarian Kathy Stattel and Principal Robert Carpenter – are working to determine their content and value.

            During the Oct. 14 meeting, Solicitor Matt Hovey said the removal of any book must be done in a systematic way and for a legally defensible reason. He explained that more hasty action could be a violation of the First Amendment and potentially expose the district to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

            Any actions must follow standards set in a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court Decision. In Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, the court held that factual disputes about the school board's motivation for the removal precluded the school board from prevailing in the lower court without a full trial, according to information posted on Middle Tennessee State University's website.

            All four books explore issues of race, sex and gender among children. Three of them have received similar criticism across the country.

            "The Bluest Eye," published in 1970, tells the tragic story of Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old African American girl from an abusive home. The debut novel by Nobel Prize-winning, and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, is now considered an American classic and an essential account of the African American experience after the Great Depression, according to a description at britannica.com. It states that the main character Pecola equates beauty and social acceptance with whiteness; she, therefore, longs to have "the bluest eye."

            Last year, a school district in southern California reversed a recent decision to remove the novel from its core and extended reading list for upper-level AP English Literature classes, according to an Oct. 1 2020 article on the Los Angeles Times website.

            In "Beyond Magenta" (2014), author Susan Kunklin interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and represented them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference, according to the author's website.

            In "Out of the Darkness" (2015), author Ashley Hope Pérez – a 2016 Michael L. Printz Award finalist, one of the highest honors for Young Adult literature – writes the fictional story of a Mexican girl and Black boy falling in love following the real-life 1937 New London school explosion in East Texas, a historical event that killed approximately 300 students and teachers, according to an Oct. 2 article in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch. It states that her book has been banned or put on challenge lists to be reviewed for removal in at least three school districts in Texas, where Perez was born and spent much of her life living.

            In "All Boys Aren't Blue" (2020), author George M. Johnson – a journalist and LGBTQ+ activist – explores his childhood and adolescence growing up in Plainfield, NJ as well as his college years attending an HBCU in Virginia, according to a June 2020 article posted on the website of Deadline, which covers Hollywood. It states that the young adult memoir covers memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five to his loving relationship with his grandmother whom he affectionately called "Nanny," to his first sexual experience. The memoir showcases the life of growing up under the duality of being black and queer.

            I'll Have Another Productions, a company owned by actress Gabrielle Union, optioned the television rights to develop as a series with Sony Pictures TV, according to the article.


 

 

 

 

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