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PV parent protests controversial author's visit

A parent voiced concern to the Panther Valley School Board Thursday about having middle school students attend a talk by an author of a book banned by some schools.

Karen Burke said the novel "Crank" has material she feels is inappropriate for middle school students.New York Times best-selling author Ellen Hopkins will visit the high school on March 12.Her talk is also open to middle school students, with signed permission slips.The student leadership group at Panther Valley High School raised $3,000 to bring Hopkins to the school.Burke said the book has a rating for students age 14 and older but "Crank" details topics such as meth use, drug use with a parent, masturbation, oral sex, and group sex.The board didn't comment on her remarks.Superintendent Rosemary Porembo said only middle school students who received permission slips from their parents will be able to attend the Hopkins' talk.She said the district has guidelines, and as a result, the book "Crank" is not in the middle school library.Burke said what has her most concerned about "Crank" is that it identifies various problems but doesn't present solutions for them."It's great they're inviting authors," she told the board, but she has reservations about the content of a book that is being offered for sale to the students.She said she initially took her concerns to high school Principal Joseph Gunnels and middle school Principal Lisa Mace. She praised the two district administrators for meeting with her and discussing the matter.Mace said she will be discussing the matter with Porembo.Burke said she isn't criticizing the decision to have the author talk to students in grades 9-12."My main concern is that the content is much inappropriate for seventh and eighth grade," she said.In the book "Crank," she said there are references to "fun from protected sex," meth use including details, the drug "crank" is a monster and it praises the monster, a girl getting high with her father, and references to masturbation, oral sex, and group sex.There's a reference to someone cutting their wrist and drinking another's blood, then stating, "It didn't even hurt. It didn't even seem wrong," Burke told the board."My intent is not to shy away from these topics," Burke said, adding that many of the problems detailed in the book are evident in the region. As an example, she said there have been eight meth labs in the area taken down.She said there are other speakers who were available who might be more appropriate for the age group, including some who would speak about overcoming obstacles such as addiction.Some of the quotes found online from the book "Crank" include:• "The way things work, how guys feel great, but make girls feel cheap for doing exactly what they beg for."• "We used to do coke, 'til 'Just Say No' put the stuff out of reach. Now it's crank. Meth. The monster. It's a bitch on the body, but damn do you fly."• "Life was good before I met the monster. After, life was great. At least for a little while."• "With you, I am Eve. And you are my beautiful Adam. Let's run away, find our garden, live there together, happy. Naked."Although "Crank" has received many awards, it made the list of 10 books most banned or challenged by communities throughout the U.S. in 2010, according to the American Library Association. It has also been banned in some schools."Crank," which tells the story of a teenage crystal meth addict, has been challenged for its inclusion of "drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit" content.Hopkins has written several verse novels, exposing teenage struggles such as drug addiction, mental illness, and prostitution.Among her books are "Glass," which is a sequel to "Crank;" "Burned," "Impulse," "Tricks," and "Fallout."In a blog post in 2010, Hopkins wrote, "Some call my books edgy; others say they're dark. They do explore tough subject matter addiction, abuse, thoughts of suicide, teen prostitution. But they bring young adult readers a middle-aged author's broader perspective."They show outcomes to choices, offer understanding. And each is infused with hope. I don't sugarcoat, but neither is the content gratuitous. Something would-be censors could only know if they'd actually read the books rather than skimming for dirty words or sexual content."She has plans for an upcoming book, "Rumble," in September 2014, about a boy who questions his faith after his brother commits suicide.