Parents upset with school district's choice of assigned reading - WNEM TV 5

Parents upset with school district's choice of assigned reading

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
MIDLAND, MI (WNEM) -

A controversy is brewing in Midland over a book.

Parents said ninth grade students were assigned to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

The novel follows a teen living on an Indian reservation.

School leaders said the book is part of an effort to promote diversity, but some parents said the content is inappropriate for young students.

“I was mortified. I couldn’t believe it. I went to Midland High. I’m a graduate of Midland High. All my family went there as well. We didn’t read anything like that,” said Jeff DeHaven, parent.

DeHaven has two children in Midland Public Schools. He is appalled the district is using the book as part of the ninth-grade curriculum.

The novel is littered with very strong and potentially offensive language.

“Of a father of two daughters I just don’t think they need to be exposed to that language, to be exposed to that sexual content,” DeHaven said.

School administrators said they wanted to enhance the English language arts curriculum with authors from diverse backgrounds. They said they vetted the book twice and concluded there were strong lessons included through the novel.

Administrators went on to say students are offered alternative texts if they opt not to read the novel.

“If you did, you have to go down to the library and kind of be excluded from the class. Which is more devastating, I feel for the student. So, I’m glad there’s an option out, but I don’t know if that’s the right approach for this,” DeHaven said.

The novel is banned in other school districts across the country.

DeHaven would like to see that happen in Midland as well.

“I still don’t understand why it needs to be required by any means,” DeHaven said.

Superintendent Michael Sharrow released this statement:

Adopting curriculum includes a multistep process that encompasses reviews by faculty committees, curriculum experts, administrators, and the Board of Education.  Over the past several years, efforts have been made to enhance our English Language Arts curriculum with authors from diverse backgrounds.  This led to the adoption of two texts in 2016 including “I am Malala” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”   When vetting the “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” a secondary vetting process was utilized as the novel contains sensitive material.  The process concluded that there were strong lessons included throughout the novel and confirmed the choice to have the novel in the curriculum.  It was also universally acknowledged that there is content that can be found offensive by some readers and families.  To honor parent choice, procedures were developed to notify stakeholders that the book contained materials of a sensitive nature.  In addition, students are offered an alternative texts if they opt to not read the text.

We have district procedures in place to offer citizens the ability to ask for a reconsideration of an adopted instruction material.  Several citizens have asked for the text to be reconsidered.  The reference below will show both the reconsideration process and current status.

Citizen Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Material:

A. Inquiries regarding instructional material used in a school program will first be reviewed in an informal discussion. At the high school level, the citizen should be invited by the principal to meet with him/her, the teacher leader for the subject area, and the teacher using the instructional material. At other levels, the citizen should be invited by the principal to meet with the teacher and the principal or assistant principal. The appropriate curriculum specialist and the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment should be informed of the meeting. If the material has been reviewed by a committee and an opinion rendered by the committee and/or the Board of Education within the last five years, the citizen should be informed of this decision. Unless significant new information is brought up, a further review will not be undertaken.

B. If a review is warranted, a district committee will be formed. The committee will include the building administrator, a teacher leader from the subject area, the appropriate curriculum specialist, and two (2) subject area classroom teachers. The chairperson of the review committee will be designated. The review process should be completed within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the request for reconsideration of instructional material.

C. After the District review committee presents its recommendation to the principal, the principal will contact the citizen to discuss the concern and inform him/her of the process and results thus far. In the event this discussion does not satisfactorily answer the citizen’s question or resolve differing points of view, the citizen will be asked by the teacher leader or building principal to file with the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment a formal, written request, using the form "Citizen’s Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Material." (If the formal written request for reconsideration has not been received by the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment within two (2) weeks from the time the citizen received the recommendation of the review committee, the issue will be considered closed.)

D. At the time a formal request is filed, the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment will inform the Superintendent. The District review committee will summarize its conclusions in a written report to the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, who will send a copy of the report to the citizen along with the Associate Superintendent’s recommendation on the citizen’s request. A copy of these documents will be sent to the Board of Education at this time. If the review committee recommends that the material being examined be removed from the curriculum, the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment shall present the committee’s report to the Board of Education along with his/her recommendation.

E. Should the citizen find the review committee’s report unsatisfactory, the citizen will be invited to meet with the Superintendent to review all actions and recommendations. The Superintendent will consider the information and make a recommendation within ten (10) days.

F. If the citizen finds the Superintendent’s recommendation unsatisfactory, the citizen may write directly to the Board of Education, requesting a full review of the preceding actions relative to the material in question. At the Board’s request, the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and any other members of the review committee deemed needed will supply the Board with a full report of these actions. Following their deliberations, the board will make a final judgment.

G. The authority to make the final decision on all matters of curriculum and instructional materials rests with the Board of Education

At this point, we are partially through Step 'C' (as indicated by the highlighted text). If we receive a request from the citizen to progress in the process, we will proceed according to our guidelines.

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