Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Banned book reinstated

Censorship issues remain unresolved in Baldwin

November 19, 2003

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— A parent challenge of the controversial novel "We All Fall Down" at Baldwin High School has been resolved, with the book remaining on the approved reading list.

But the decision by the school board after months of debate left people in the community uncertain whether it constituted victory or defeat.

"It has divided the community so much," said Stacy Cohen, a board member who cast the only vote against the proposal ending the conflict.

Under action taken by the board, Robert Cormier's novel will be available to students in the high school's freshman orientation class.

However, the book about peer pressure, alcoholism and other issues faced by teenagers won't be required reading in that class. It will be supplemental curricular material.

The book should be available to students in that class, Cohen said, but the six-person majority on the board shouldn't micromanage decisions about how books are used in a class.

"We're dictating the methodology of teaching," Cohen said.

A district committee that reviewed the book voted 5-2 to return the novel to the class taught by Joyce Tallman. The committee also recommended to the school board that a decision about use of the book be left to the classroom teacher, school principal and district curriculum director.

Supt. James White said he was satisfied with the outcome of debate about "We All Fall Down."

The district administration and board will now focus on developing a new policy for handling challenges of classroom materials, he said.

"There is a great deal of interest in a new policy," White said. "They would like to have a more rigid policy that is explicit on how challenges are handled."

In September, White removed the book from the class after receiving two complaints from parents.

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