SWEET HOME — Sweet Home eighth-graders can keep reading a controversial young adult novel for now, at least until a reconsideration committee makes its ruling.
The nine-member committee took nearly two hours of public testimony and deliberated for about another half-hour before coming to its decision Wednesday. Members will meet again at 5 p.m. Feb. 12 to determine whether the book will remain in use for the future.
Members made their decision in closed session and the vote count was not made public. However, Superintendent Don Schrader said seven of the nine would have had to agree to pull the book from the class while the committee deliberates, and that total was not reached.
The controversy involves Sherman Alexie’s largely biographical novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The novel has received awards for its 14-year-old narrator’s wry, unflinching look at issues such as adolesence, poverty and racism, but has also drawn criticism for profanity and sexual discussions.
More than 150 parents signed a permission slip to allow their children to read the book in class. Thirteen opted for an alternative lesson. Five people — two with children in the class — formally requested the district to reconsider the material.
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Ten people, including the five challengers, asked for the book’s removal at Wednesday’s meeting. The two eighth-grade teachers using the book spoke in support, along with four students and three district employees.
Opponents questioned classroom use of material containing words forbidden by the school’s code of conduct. They said curse words and lewd discussions might be the norm for some students, but that schools should hold to a higher standard, and shouldn’t have to resort to a book some find inappropriate just to get kids to read.
“I can’t believe we don’t have another book that teaches these kids the same thing without everything else,” said Cindy Victor, who has a grandchild in the class. “I don’t want that material going into my kids’ heads.”
Brian Gold, one of the two teachers, said the book gets students to respond because it speaks to them so directly, particularly the ones who are about ready to give up on both literature and education.
“Isn’t there something else?” he said. “I have not found that book in 18 years of teaching.”