DuBOIS — DuBois Area School District Superintendent Wendy Benton, at last Thursday’s board meeting, provided an update with regard to the types of books that are available in the district’s libraries.
At the October board meeting, several parents and a student voiced concerns about the book, “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas.
The most vocal parent was Deidre Brown, who said at the previous meeting that she believed the book was inappropriate for 10-14-year-old students at the DuBois Area Middle School, where the book was signed out by a student.
Brown said the book uses profanity nearly 100 times and vulgar language appears on almost every page; at least two detailed sexual encounters; gruesome violence/murder; details of gangs and drug dealing; multiple uses of racial/ethnic slurs; disrespect of the police; white bashing; promotion and acceptance of rioting and looting as acceptable behaviors; and promotion of Black Lives Matter/Black Panthers.
At that time, Brown stated that she also found about two dozen other books with equally questionable material at the middle school library.
A 12-year-old middle school student, who borrowed the book from the school library, also said she looked at the book with her mother and they were “shocked” by what was in it.
At the end of the October meeting, Benton, along with board President Larry Salone and Director Bob Wachob, all apologized to the student who was offended by the book. Benton said she would look into the book the next day.
Solicitor Carl Beard commended the parents and the student on their presentations.
Though Brown was not in attendance at this month’s meeting, Bianca Ross spoke out about her concerns about the books brought up at the previous meeting. Like Brown, she also believed the book was not appropriate for middle school students to check out without their parents’ knowledge.
“Your options and lack of initiative to confront the type of topics that are important to the parents of the district speak volumes,” said Ross. “And the fact that not a single one of you reached out for that book or list, is a disappointment that proves you aren’t here for the reasons you should be. Truth be told, CRT (critical race theory) has no home in education. It’s a curriculum based on division.”
In response to Ross’ comments, Benton said, “Ms. Brown stated that she was going to email a list to me and I have not received that list. But regardless, the day after the board meeting, I spent a lot of time in the library and I’ve already investigated the books that are most commonly challenged. So the board and I have developed a response to that as well, and we believe that you’ll be quite pleased with.
“We all know better than to judge a book by its cover or from a few excerpts,” said Benton. “’The Hate U Give,’ was written by Angie Thomas, and the book is dedicated to her grandmother for showing her that there can be light in the darkness. The book was published in 2017 and entered the middle school through a Scholastic Book Fair. It was placed into circulation on April 8th of 2021.”
Benton said the book was only ever checked out twice, both times in October.
“As a New York Times’ best seller for more than 160 weeks, with millions of copies sold, the book is also the recipient of two noteworthy awards — The Coretta Scott King Award, which is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace, as well as the The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence and young adult literature that annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely honor its literary merit,” said Benton.
Although held in high regard by many, “The Hate U Give” is also included on the annual list of most challenged books from the American Library Association, said Benton.
“I’ve studied these lists for the past three years and found several of these challenged books on the shelves of the middle school library,” she said. “Classics, such as, ‘Of Mice and Men,’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ are on the shelves, but are not popular selections by our middle school students. The more popular, most commonly challenged books include, the Harry Potter series and the Captain Underpants series.
“We, the leadership of the DuBois Area School District, support the freedom to read,” said Benton. “We also recognize the professional responsibility to provide age-appropriate reading materials to the children in our community. ‘The Hate U Give,’ is rated, mature, and it’s recommended for individuals that are 13 or older. In our quest to provide students with the freedom to read, and because the majority of students at the middle school are not 13 or older, ‘The Hate U Give,’ will be made available to students upon request with parental permission.”