Wed, Jan 5, 2005
Owen-Withee board rejects book-ban request
By Jeni Lewis
OWEN - School Board members have denied a request to remove what
protesters call a "pervasively vulgar" book with a sexual subject
content from school library shelves.
A few citizens in the district, including some parents with no children
in district schools, wanted "Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez removed from
Owen-Withee Junior and Senior High School.
"A whole bunch of people went to the School Board to ask them to remove
it, and they wouldn't remove it," said Holly Strickland of Owen, who
home-schooled her kids and who said she hasn't read the book - only
reviews of it. "To us, it's a homosexual recruiting tool. We're going
to try and bring it up again. We're going to try and reason it out of
there on the vulgarity issue."
She said about 15 people made the removal request to the board.
"Rainbow Boys" is about teen-age boys who are facing changes in their
lives. Homosexuality and how gay men fit into their community is
addressed in the book.
After the school received the challenge, a committee of teachers was
formed to read and respond to the book, said Dan Taft, principal of the
high school. Those responses were passed on to the challengers, as well
as reviews by national organizations.
If a challenger still wants a book removed after that, the process goes
to the superintendent. James Friesen looked over the reviews and made a
recommendation that students in grades seven through nine have parental
permission to check out the book and it be made available without
restriction to high school students.
The book talks about how students deal with being accepted into their
communities when they think they would be shunned by peers and family.
"Kids aren't naive. They know this stuff goes on," Taft said. "You hate
to get in a position where these are some of your kids who are maybe
Other districts have similar policies if a literature or curriculum
selection is thought to be inappropriate by community members.
Marshfield School District not only has a challenge policy, but also
one on how pieces are selected to be placed within the library, said
Joyce Fox, library media specialist at Marshfield High School. "Rainbow
Boys" has never been shelved at Marshfield High School.
"We have a selection policy which also is school board approved," she
said. "It has to meet our standards, we consult review sources and it
has to be age-appropriate."
Schools also look for books that will fit in with the curriculum, said
Carolyn Sauer, Spencer district librarian. Spencer has a copy of
"Rainbow Boys" in its library. She goes by recommendations from
national review organizations, as well as teacher requests.
Books are challenged based on subject and language, said Lori Belongia,
director of the Marshfield Public Library. But it doesn't happen often.
"Different people have different standards," she said. "We've had a challenge on witchcraft materials."
When a challenge is made, the library asks for reasons why the book
should be removed. The challenger is asked what is offensive about the
material, as well as how much was read.
"If you pick just a portion of it without the work as a whole ... you
might find it might not have a redeeming value," Belongia said.
Strickland said a survey has been sent to taxpayers in Owen-Withee,
asking if they support the board's decision to keep the book on the
shelf. She expects to have the surveys returned within the month, and
intends to take the results back to the board.
Jeni Lewis can be reached at 384-3131 or 800-967-2087, ext. 329 or at email@example.com.