SUNBURY — A book challenge update was given at the most recent Big Walnut Board of Education meeting.
At a prior board meeting, several members of the public read what they considered to be offensive passages from “Looking for Alaska,” an award-winning novel for young adults that is optional reading for the English honors class at Big Walnut High School. This prompted Superintendent Ryan McLane to provide an update at the board meeting on Oct. 20. He said there were 25 books being challenged, but later clarified it to be 24 books, since the 25th hadn’t officially been challenged yet.
“When I look at this, I have to think about the process and procedures while at the same time following board policy,” McLane said at the board meeting. “We have a limited number of human resources in the district, and I have to prioritize things or the only thing we’ll be doing this year is reading books. So, our first priority is a book that has been challenged that is required reading by all students in a class with no alternate options. As far as I’m aware, we have no books in this category.
“The second category would be books that are an option for a class,” McLane continued. “We do have a few books in this category, and this is where we have started. Finally, books that are challenged that are in our school library are honestly just going to be less of a priority. That’s not to say we will not review them; however, we will do so at a more appropriate time of the year when there are not as many other things going on.
“Our first committee was formed and will be meeting … to examine “Looking for Alaska.” Based on that committee’s recommendation, I will be making a recommendation at the November board meeting. Some people have asked me why can’t we pull the book until the committee makes a recommendation, and again it’s about the process. Our students at Big Walnut are very smart — they remind me of the kids I went to school with. If they knew a book gets pulled whenever it is challenged, I know my friends would have challenged our physics book, our honors geometry book and many others,” McLane concluded.
In response to a request for a list of the books being challenged, McLane told The Gazette, “Of the books below, none are required reading in a class; four are options students can choose from; and the remaining are in our library catalog.”
The following are the books being challenged:
• “After” by Amy Efaw
• “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendon Kieley
• “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
• “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” by Susan Kuklin
• “Brave New World: A Graphic Novel” by Aldous Huxley
• “Bumped” by Megan McCafferty
• “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
• “Flamer” by Mike Curato
• “Go Ask Alice: A Real Diary” by Anonymous
• “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sanchez
• “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
• “Looking For Alaska” by John Green
• “Me Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews
• “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston
• “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
• “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
• “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
• “The Freedom Writer’s Diary” by Erin Gruwell
• “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
• “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros
• “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold
• “Twisted” by Laurie Halse Anderson
• “Unravel Me” by Tehereh Mafi
• “Wintergirls” by Laurie Halse Anderson
Also at the meeting, new Treasurer Darren Jenkins said the report he gave still had former Treasurer Jeremy Buskirk’s name on it because it was a reflection of his final work for the district. Jenkins said Big Walnut was on budget. “Financially, the district is performing as predicted,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins added there have been four public requests for records in his first month on the job, one involving thousands of emails.
During the board member comment portion of the meeting, Board President Doug Crowl said the book challenges and records requests were signs of civility because they were going through the proper process. He said he was charged with making sure the board was not harassed by the public, and that one board member has received an email daily since August from someone.
“That’s criminal harassment, and if it requires the board president to go talk to the (county) prosecutor, I will,” he said. “I want to hear what the community has to say, but you have to be respectful.”
Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County. He may be reached at the above email address or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.