Thief River Falls, Minn., school to offer optional, 'edited' version of book parents objected to
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn - After a long public forum and an equally long board discussion, the school board here voted Monday night to provide an optional, edited version of a book some parents say contains inappropriate descriptions of boys being...
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn - After a long public forum and an equally long board discussion, the school board here voted Monday night to provide an optional, edited version of a book some parents say contains inappropriate descriptions of boys being raped.
"Kaffir Boy," by Mark Mathabane, chronicles his journey as a black student under apartheid in South Africa to America and success as a tennis player. It's part of the freshman English reading list at Lincoln High School. Earlier this month, some parents raised objections, mostly to one passage that graphically describes the rape of young boys by men, including details about Vaseline and penises.
Superintendant Irv Peterson said about a dozen people spoke for about 75 minutes, "all very respectful," Monday night during a forum that had to be moved from the regular board meeting place to the high school cafeteria because of the big turnout.
The seven-member board then discussed the matter for more than an hour before voting 5 to 2 to offer students an alternative, abridged version done by Mathabane himself because of controversies in other schools over the passage. Parents will have the choice of which version their children will read.
"I guess it's been a problem in a number of school districts around the country," said Peterson, who said he, too, questioned the age-appropriateness of the passage in question.
"We never asked for the book to be banned," said Kathleen Possai, a parent who objected to the original version of the book. "But we asked for the revised version to be used."
She said it's her right as a parent to be in charge of what is appropriate for her children to read at what age. She and her husband have a son in seventh grade, and she doesn't want him reading the passage when he's a freshman.
The book is part of a new curriculum, Peterson said, and was added to the list last spring. After complaints, it was taken off the list and not used in the classrooms.
Peterson received two formal written complaints, he said, along with other input for and against the book's use.
"We've heard it from both sides," he said.
An Advisory Review Committee of teachers, students, parents and administrators came up with alternatives. English teachers spoke in favor of keeping the book's text as it was originally written.
Possai said she hasn't met a parent yet who after reading or hearing the controversial passage read thought it was appropriate for high school freshmen.
She realizes that with two versions of the book in class, it's difficult to see how any student won't end up reading the passage she finds objectionable.
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