On Monday at the Republic, MO school board meeting, four Republic School Board members reviewed a year-old complaint that three books are inappropriate reading material for high school children. In a 4-0 vote, the members decided to ax two of the three books from the high school curriculum and the library shelves: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was spared. The resident who filed the original complaint targeted these three books because “they teach principles contrary to the Bible“:
Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident, challenged the use of the books and lesson plans in Republic schools, arguing they teach principles contrary to the Bible.
“I congratulate them for doing what’s right and removing the two books,” said Scroggins, who didn’t attend the board meeting. “It’s unfortunate they chose to keep the other book.”
Speak is an award-winning novel that describes a high school date rape victim’s personal struggles. This novel was approved because, as school superintendent Vern Minor said, only one page is used to “tastefully, not graphically” describe the rape and there were only three instances of profanity. But Twenty Boy Summer, a book about a young girl who struggles with loving another after her boyfriend suddenly dies, apparently focused too much on “sensationalizing sexual promiscuity” and featured “questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse.” “If the book had ended on a different note, I might have though differently,” said Minor.
As for the modern classic Slaughterhouse Five, the book is no stranger to censorship. One of the first literary acknowledgments that homosexual men, or “fairies” in the novel, were victims in the Holocaust, school classrooms and libraries frequently ban the book for its use of profanity and depictions of sex. The Supreme Court actually considered the First Amendment implications of the removal of this book, among others, from libraries in the 1982 case Island Tree School District v. Pico. The Court’s plurality concluded that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’” Minor’s reason for removing the novel? “The language is just really, really intense…I don’t think it has any place in high school…I’m not saying it’s a bad book.”
While the books will be removed from the curriculum and the library, students desiring to read these books can get parent permission to use them for a school project. “If the parent thinks ‘For Johnny, it is age-appropriate,’ then we’ll let the parent make the call,” Minor said. It is important to note that, out of the four School Board Members, only one has actually read all three books.