Republic moves banned books back to library

REPUBLIC, Mo. (AP) — Two months after removing two books from its curriculum and school library, a southwest Missouri school board has voted to allow them back into the library — but with strong restrictions on who will be allowed to check them out.

The Republic school board voted in July to remove Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the school after a man who does not have children there said the books taught values contrary to the Bible. That decision triggered heated debate in Republic and prompted Monday’s decision to revise the school’s book policy.

Under the revised policy approved before a packed meeting room, the board agreed to allow challenged books to be kept in a secure section of the school library. Only parents who want their children to read the book will be allowed to check it out, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://bit.ly/nytAPs).

“It does keep the books there in the library, and if parents want their kids to read the book, by all means come and check it out,” said Superintendent Vern Minor. “It still puts the decision in parents’ hands.”

A year ago, Republic resident Wes Scroggins complained about the appropriateness of those two books as well as “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. On July 25, following Minor’s recommendation, the board kept “Speak” and removed the other two books.

“The book challenge actually created an opportunity for us as a school district, not just to look at the three books in isolation but to also develop a set of standards that we could use from this point forward,” Minor said. “Those standards would do two things for us — help us resolve the public complaint ... and establish parameters to help staff make decisions in the future.”

Any books that fail to meet the standards will be removed from the curriculum and will not be assigned as required readings or read aloud by a teacher. They will be available for independent reading. Parents will be allowed to refuse to have their children read certain books.

Two Republic High School seniors strongly disagreed with the board’s decision.

Brittney Muir, 17, is reading “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which she calls “fantastic and great.”

“They’re here to teach us and we’re here to learn,” she said. “By taking away our books, they’re taking away our right to learn.”

Jaymes Haney, 17, said he didn’t understand why the board acted on a complaint filed by a man who has no children in the district.

“One religious man’s complaint and opinion has caused a review and affected 1,500 people,” he said of the high school students. “Now they’re putting it in the library and putting it in a secure location? Only parents can come in and check it out; it’s not accessible.”

Members of the group Reclaiming Missouri For Christ attended the board meeting. President Mark Riser said he supports the book standards and making the books available with parental permission.

“I have no problem with that. ...We’ve never used that word ‘ban’ or censor,” Riser said. “The biggest good that can come out of it is that the Republic school board now actually has a (book standard) guideline to go from.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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