SUNBURY — Ryan McLane made two important announcements while giving his Superintendent’s Report during the Big Walnut Local Schools Board of Education meeting on Nov. 17.
The first was regarding the book “Looking for Alaska,” which had been challenged by a number of parents for its language and adult themes. The book was being taught in an English class but was optional for students.
McLane had said a book committee would be formed to examine the book, along with two dozen other books that had been challenged. He said the committee met Oct. 26 at Big Walnut High School to review “Looking for Alaska” first. The committee was comprised of staff members and community members solicited by email, specifically parents or guardians of the students in the class the book was being read. McLane said based on those who responded, a random number generator was used to select two parents.
“The committee met, and we essentially went through separate rubrics — one, for whether or not the book was appropriate to be in our high school library, and second if it was appropriate to be included in class as a curriculum material,” McLane said. “Throughout the process, each member participated and shared their thoughts. The recommendation of the committee was to allow ‘Looking for Alaska’ to remain in the high school library as well as to allow it to continue to be a curriculum material in the high school and English class. The committee also expressed the feeling that they supported and appreciated the fact that the book was not required reading for all students. So, someone who is not comfortable with the book still had the opportunity for another option.”
The other announcement was regarding the colors of the Big Walnut graduation caps and gowns. In recent years, graduating males wore red caps and gowns, while graduating females wore gold caps and gowns. Red and gold are the high school colors.
McLane said that earlier in the school year, he was approached by some students and a parent, and he was asked to change the caps and gowns to a single color. He said he then spoke to Big Walnut High School Principal Andy Jados about the matter.
“We both believe strongly that the seniors should have a say in this,” McLane said. “If there was an overwhelming support from them to switch to one color, I was open to exploring that option.”
Opinions were solicited, and “it was reported back to me that there was not a strong desire from the senior class to switch to one color.”
However, McLane said that those seeking change were heard. Therefore, the Big Walnut Class of 2023 will get to choose which of the two colors they want to wear at commencement.
“I personally do not care which color one chooses to wear, as long as it is red or gold,” McLane said. “I am more excited about celebrating this great milestone with them in May, and the memories I have of them as fifth and sixth graders at Big Walnut Intermediate School (when he was principal there).
“We will continue this process in subsequent years. The junior class may feel differently and when they are seniors, they may express a desire to go to one color. If that is the case, we will explore that option at that time.”
McLane concluded by saying, “The (school) board was taking some heat on social media. The board did not make the final decision on this. I did, so if you want to be mad at someone, I guess that’s me. But I made this decision based on the information I was provided by this year’s senior class.”