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New Prairie Book Review Round Two

(New Carlisle, IN) - Last week the New Prairie United School Corporation Board of Trustees heard another round of library book objections. In January, the board voted to retain six books in the school library, despite claims that they contain offensive or otherwise objectionable material.


Eight different books were on the chopping block this time.


Heather Oake, who brought the challenge, read excerpts from the books at a special meeting last Monday night. Many of the passages contained sexually explicit language that cannot be printed here.


Even so, as in January, many people at the meeting spoke up in favor of the books and what they consider a matter of free speech. Among them was Jamie Talboom. “Banning books like this does not protect your children from the atrocities of this world,” she told the school board. “Books like these let children know they are not alone in their journey, and it gives them empathy for other people.”


Several others vouched for the artistic merit of the books in question and urged that such books can be beneficial to students who are grappling with difficult topics in their personal lives.


A few community members spoke out against the books. Austin Kosinski questioned the propriety of offering what he considers pornographic content to middle schoolers. He also read a passage from one of the books with anti-Semitic overtones. Another parent said she previously worked for the school district but resigned and pulled her kids from school when she discovered what they were being exposed to.


The school board voted unanimously to keep the books in the middle school library.


School Superintendent Dr. Paul White explained the legal reasoning behind it: “When you look at the library material, you have to consider it as a whole, meaning you have to look at the literary value, in total, of the book.” It’s pornography, he said, if a book’s sole theme is sexual. But other themes, if present, must be taken into account.


Oake questions why books with such risqué passages were chosen to begin with. “The whole point is just to make people aware that this is going on,” she said after the meeting. “Why do they have to be there? So just letting parents know that you know, you might want to start looking at what books your kids are actually checking out.”


She says she has not found the same controversial titles elsewhere. “It’s not going on in every school,” she said. “I’ve looked for these same books in La Porte’s middle school, at Kesling, and they’re not there.”


Dr. White says the issue has prompted the school to take a closer look at what kinds of books are on the shelves. According to him, a newly hired media specialist has been coordinating a full review of the library collection. White said some books have already been moved from the middle school to the high school due to age-appropriateness.


The book debate at New Prairie is not over. Oake said she initially challenged about 30 books. For practical reasons, the school district has decided to review them in chunks, so that a committee can read and discuss them thoroughly before making a recommendation.

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