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Four Books under Challenge in Upper Perkiomen
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-02-02

            A Marlborough Township resident has formally asked Upper Perkiomen educators to limit student access of four books in the high school library.  Jennifer Beltz says her goal is to remove them from the library or require parental consent to check them out.

            She described their content, which includes sexually explicit language, as inappropriate for children. Beltz compared allowing minors to read the books similar to allowing a 13-year-old to see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian.  "I find that disturbing," she said on Monday.

            School board members won't be the ones to decide if the books are removed. According to Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina, Policy 109 directs the district employees reviewing the books will make that determination. She said after the Jan. 27 workshop meeting that the applicant can appeal the decision to Superintendent Allyn Roche.

            Four teams of educators are examining the text of all four books to determine if the books contain educational value and if they are necessary to the library's overall collection, according to Farina. She claims to have recruited at least 20 administrators and staff members to work with Principal Robert Carpenter and his assistants Todd Amsler and Josh Miller, who are chairing the review committee.

            Roche is not included in the group, according to Farina, who said she is peripherally involved in the process and currently examining two of the four books she had not already read. Once the review is complete, the committee will transmit its decision on each book to the applicant in a letter this month, according to the assistant superintendent.

            Peg Pennepacker, the board vice president and chair of the Policy Committee, did not return a text message seeking further clarification on the policy dictating the handling of resource materials.

            On Dec. 30, Beltz submitted a formal request to challenge "The Bluest Eye," "Beyond Magenta," "Out of the Darkness" and "All Boys Aren't Blue." She said she met with Carpenter, Amsler and Miller, who informed her that a committee would be created to examine all four books that explore issues of race, sex and gender among children.

            Beltz expressed hope that the committee would create a policy giving parents the option to allow their children to access the books. She suggested it follow a similar practice that permits parents and guardians to allow the dissemination of student photos by newspapers.  "I don't think it's asking too much," Beltz said.

            Four months ago, Beltz and several other residents expressed their opposition to the books during a school board meeting. On Oct. 14, she claimed that the books were a bad influence on children.

            Beltz described them as pornographic, inappropriate, disturbing, sexually explicit, violent and graphic, and claimed they had no place in a school library. During the meeting, she warned anyone with children to leave the auditorium at the middle school before reading a sexually explicit passage appearing to depict pedophilia.

            Two others also read aloud the passages that they found most objectionable. Nicole Benning read a passage from a separate book describing a child "who liked to perform oral sex." She claimed it included a justification for pushing over a pregnant teacher.

            A Pennsburg resident then started to read a passage from one of the books with explicit references to body parts. Geoff Wilson cut his comments short when he realized he was repeating a passage previously identified by Beltz.

            "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. Beltz said Monday that she has read reviews claiming that college students have a hard time processing the book.

            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, 2021 article in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch.

            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, N.J. 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.

 


 

 

 

 

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