School board votes to keep book on library shelves

By The Associated Press
06.16.04

TWIN BRIDGES, Mont. — School board members have decided to keep a novel about a sexually abused boy in the school's library.

At a June 14 meeting attended by a crowd of about 80 people, the board voted 4-1 to follow the recommendation of a committee that evaluated the novel America by E.R. Frank. While the book's main character used language that some readers may find objectionable, the committee found it was a realistic portrayal of life for an abused child.

"Abuse cannot be painted with a pretty picture," the committee said.

Twin Bridges teacher Mark Weber sought the book's removal and asked the district to form a committee that would reflect "local values" in selecting books.

"I believe a school library has a higher calling than public libraries to provide appropriate materials for students," Weber said.

Weber, who said he objected to the book's inappropriate language and graphic sexual imagery, said a school library shouldn't be the place for a censorship debate.

"This is about kids and what's best for them," he said.

Some agreed, such as Jamie Mehlhoff who said the book would be rated X if it were a movie. The board adjourned when Mehlhoff began reading aloud passages from the book after she was asked not to.

"If you can't read a book out loud, it doesn't belong in the school library," said Krista Berry.

However, most of those attending the meeting supported keeping the book. Karen Degel said books about difficult topics give parents a way to discuss such issues.

"I am my children's censor," Degel said. "I am not your child's censor. I take an active role in what my kids read."

Removing the book would violate constitutional rights, said Jamie Reynolds, Twin Bridges school librarian. She said parents and educators must also keep faith in children to choose good over bad.

"If this book is removed, Pandora's box will be opened," said Reynolds. "Though one group of people so adamantly objects to profanity, there are other groups who feel just as strongly about religion, fantasy or witchcraft, gay rights, evolution and the list goes on."