Parent Jean Pierre Bolat complained about the book’s inclusion in the required high school freshman English curriculum. His complaint was made three months before he became a member of Wallingford’s school board, and after a movie based on the novel was shown to his son’s class.
Bolat met with a committee of teachers and library staff, and after he made his case the committee decided to keep the book. He appealed the decision to School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo.
Menzo could have supported his teachers and staff, but that’s not what he did. You could say he buckled, if you wanted to get strong-languaged about it. He chose to remove the book from the freshman English curriculum. It will now be an independent reading text.
Also from the Record-Journal:
Sheehan High School alumna Katie Eber was the first to speak, saying she read a book with very similar themes while she was in high school, and it “opened the door” for discussions. Eber said she was concerned about the idea that one person could affect policy. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said that after he was given a complaint by Jean-Pierre Bolat, whose son attends Sheehan, he did additional research that uncovered various problems with ambiguity in language in the curriculum and how the book was being used in the school. The book should not have been required reading in any class, but that message was misinterpreted by some teachers, Menzo said.
From the New Haven Register:
Menzo insisted during a nearly hour-long discussion of the controversy Monday night that he wasn’t bowing to the wishes of one parent. He also insisted that the issue at hand had nothing to do with censorship, but was about addressing ambiguities in the curriculum.
“Though the book has adult themes, it was written at a fourth- to sixth-grade level,” said Menzo. “I think we should have something a little more challenging for our students.”
Still more from the Record-Journal:
A growing number of residents have taken to a Facebook community forum questioning the timeline of Menzo’s decision and whether Bolat’s appointment to the school board had any influence.
“The timeline as indicated to me is troubling,” Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said. “If I was in that position, I would probably bring it to the attention of the full Board of Education and have them make the decision because by that time, as far as I can tell, Mr. Bolat is Dr. Menzo’s one of nine supervisors.”
Menzo and Bolat did not return calls for comment.
From the NCAC:
Does Menzo’s move square with legal precedent–or the district’s own guidelines?
NCAC says it does not. Our March 20 letter–co-signed by the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, PEN American Center, the Association of American Publishers and the National Council of Teachers of English– points out that
the relevant law prevents school administrators from granting one parent control over the education of other children, or from privileging the moral values of some parents over others…. In acceding to the parent’s demand, the district necessarily denies other students and parents equivalent rights. Moreover, the complaining parent has no enforceable right to have the book removed.
From the CBLDF:
The review committee decided to keep the book as part of the reading list, but Bolat appealed the decision. In February, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo decided to have the book removed from the curriculum; the book remains available for independent reading in the school library.
When asked about the decision, Bolat commented that it was “a testament to the leadership in [the] district… They realized that if something doesn’t smell good or feel good, it’s probably not the right thing.” He further commented, “I feel very strongly that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids about morality and immorality and values.”
Related: Challenged in BC.
Related: Challenged in AZ.
Related: Challenged in OH.
Related: Challenged in IL.