Book stripped from school reading list amid debate

Board member cites issues with language used in the novel.
May 6, 2014

A controversial book stirred a lively debate at the end of the monthly Board of Education meeting Monday.

The book, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” has been mentioned in prior meetings by board member Wayne McNeese, who raised the issue of removing the book from the schools’ required reading and banning it from the schools.

“I’ve talked about this book several times,” he said. “It seems like I’m beating a dead horse here, but it’s a book that’s on required reading. Some of the language is pretty bad.”

Board member Ron Britt said he had been informed that the book was not, in fact, required reading.

“I was told very clearly that it is not required reading, it’s on the list to choose from for required reading, and that is a big difference there,” said Britt.

McNeese then asked how the reading list was compiled and the criteria for the list. 

Scott Walters, testing and advanced placement coordinator at Mt. Juliet High School, said there is a committee comprised of a number of teachers as well as administrators who get together to create the list.

“It is based on literary merit, how often those titles appear in other districts or come up on AP exams. Common core supports certain books as being exemplar texts, teachers experiences,” Walters said.

“Through the years, different books have come up as being offensive to some, or maybe even the majority, and some of those books are now classics. I can’t tell you that I approve of them, but I will say that the option to read them, I feel as an educator should be there,” said Interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks.

Deputy Director of Academics Leisa Justus said she read the book with her daughter.

“My child read the book, and I read it with her,” said Justus. “So, barring the language, which I agree with you is bad….there’s merit to that book – not just literary, but also just from a personal standpoint – in point of view of an autistic child, and to have that point of view for my daughter was very powerful. She now studies autism.

“This was kind of a pivotal place in her life. Will it be for everyone? I don’t know. But is it important for us to expose our children to other viewpoints? Yes. Is it okay to have a conversation with your child as a parent, that some of those words are not appropriate? Absolutely.”

Ultimately, the board passed a motion to remove the book from the reading list in the future, but the book was not banned from the schools.

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