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Challenges Rejected on Two Books in UPSD Library
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-03-23

            Two of four books challenged by a Marlborough Township resident will remain in the Upper Perkiomen High School Library. Last week, Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina informed the school board's Curriculum & Instruction Committee that "Out of Darkness" and "The Bluest Eye" will remain accessible to students without limitation.

            Two committees reviewing each book determined that both retain educational value, according to Farina. She said the language deemed objectionable by Jennifer Beltz does not rise to the statutory level of child exploitation, as she initially claimed.    "These books are novels," she said during the March 17 committee meeting.

            District officials informed Beltz of the book committees' decision on Feb. 25, according to Farina. She said after the committee meeting that the applicant will receive a decision Friday on decisions on two other books she challenged, "Beyond Magenta" and "All Boys Aren't Blue."  

            "Out of Darkness" and "The Bluest Eye" each explores the notion of racism through varying cultural lenses, according to the administrator. Farina told the members than extracting some of the passages, deemed offensive by the applicant, changes the intended purpose of the writer. 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.

            "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.

            Mike Elliott, a school board member and chair of the committee, praised the book committees for their work. He also praised Farina for her efforts on the matter.

            Emily McCormick, a member of the school board and the committee, said she was pleased with the result and the method by which the decision was made. She repeated an earlier statement that parents will continue to have total control over what their children have access to.

            According to Farina, a review committee for each book delivered one recommendation to district officials. She said after the meetings that the teams of teachers, administrators and other professionals met to discuss each book and go through a checklist created by Policy 109, recently approved by the board.

            Farina told the legislative committee that two of the four books are available online, and that administrators have created filters to prevent elementary students from accessing them. The assistant superintendent directed parents to alert their school librarians if they have any issues with other books.

            The district spent $221.29 on 15 additional book copies to complete the reviews, according to district spokesperson Nicole Gum. She wrote on an email message received Tuesday morning that the varying purchase quantities – five each of "Beyond Magenta" and "All Boy's Aren't Blue," four of "Out of Darkness" and one of "The Bluest Eye" – were due to individuals or the district having a copy.


 

 

 

 

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