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Pl. Vly. questions library choices

Questions about whether or not some controversial books are in the Pleasant Valley School District’s libraries surfaced again at the school board meeting last week.

School board director Laura Jecker first brought up the subject in June during a school board meeting. She said some community members gave her a list and asked her to find out if the books were in the school libraries.

At the time, the school district administration didn’t have an answer for her about all of the books on the list.

Jecker brought it up again in July.

“The list should have been on the agenda. The community deserves to see the list,” Jecker said.

“I fully agree with Laura on this,” said school board director Michael Galler.

Obtained from Jecker after the meeting, the list includes 57 books. Assistant to the Superintendent Lin Rae Howard said that of the 57 books, 22 are in the high school, six are in the middle school, three are in the intermediate school, and one is in the elementary school. There are not 32 different titles but actually 27 books, because five of the books are at multiple schools.

Of the 27 books in the school district, 12 of them refer to homosexuality, being transgender, and similar topics. There are books that have both heterosexual and homosexual content, and some that refer to intimacy without using graphic descriptions.

The rest of the books on the list in the school district deal with the topics of race, culture, teen depression and suicide, drug use, the problem of cruel behavior in teens, and navigating the teen years.

Some of the other books have been around since the last century, including: “Forever” by Judy Blume, “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, “Dreaming in Cuban” by Christina Garcia, and “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” both by Toni Morrison. All of these books are at the high school. “Killing Mr. Griffin” by Lois Duncan is at the middle school.

The books on the list that are only at the high school include: “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Piccoult, “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Unravel Me” by Tahereh Mafi, “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “The Gender Quest Workbook” by Rylan Jay Testa, “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan, “This One Summer” by Maniko Tamaki, “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher, “Real Live Boyfriends” and “Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything” both by E. Lockhart, “Sloppy Firsts” by Megan McCafferty, and “Being Jazz: My Life as a Transgender Teen” by Jazz Jennings.

Three books are at the high school and middle school. They are “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, and “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.

Two books are at the middle and intermediate schools. They are “George (Melissa)” by Alex Gino, and “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier.

One book is only at the intermediate school. It is “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson, and the one book at the elementary school is titled “The Family Book” by Todd Parr. It mentions that some families have two moms and some families have two dads.

Superintendent James Konrad asked Lori Hagerman, a literacy coach for PVSD, to give some information on how the school district selects books and what it does if there is a challenge to a book.

Hagerman said books are selected to reflect a wide range of perspectives. They are also chosen to increase student growth, meet student interests and provide reading enjoyment of all students.

“Keep in mind that for every child that a parent doesn’t want them to read a book, there could be several other parents who do want their child to read that book,” Hagerman said.

Over the years, there have been few books that have been challenged, Hagerman said. If someone wants to challenge a book, then there is a process to follow. They have to complete the form, and the school district will investigate the book.

The form is on the district website. Under the administration tab, go to PVSD BoardDocs/Policies. From there, click on policies, then click on 100 Programs. Next, click on Policy 109. Form AR-7 is the Request for Challenge form.