District 97 will not remove 'controversial' novel

School will offer alternative novel to parents objecting to book's language

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

In response to a small group of parents who objected to a novel being taught in their middle school children's classrooms that contained explicit language and mature themes, District 97 will offer those parents an alternative book for their students to read.

But the district will not remove the novel Monster from its reading curriculum, based on a decision made last week by school administration following a review of the book.

Seven D97 families filed a request with the district last month to have the book removed. A "request for reconsidering" can be made under board policy, which deals with educational materials deemed "offensive or controversial." The policy also calls for an internal committee to be convened to review such materials.

Written by Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999) is a fictional, courtroom drama about an African American teen on trial for murder. Told from the point of view of the lead teen character, the book has won several literary awards since its release and has been used in D97 middle schools since 2008.

Still, some D97 parents object to the book's references to violence, drug use, sex among minors and "racially-offensive" language, among other mature themes. They also objected to their kids having to read from the novel out loud in class, which is not uncommon in some classrooms.

The parents filed their request on April 16, asking that the book be replaced with something "more appropriate" for young children. A committee that included teachers and administrators was then established to review Monster, a process that took about three weeks.

The committee ultimately concluded that the book is appropriate for D97 seventh graders. Until now, the district had not received any complaints from families about the novel, according to Chris Jasculca, D97's director of communications. He said the book was chosen by the district's literacy committee, which includes language arts teachers.

"The committee was in search of a drama to include on the novel grid for seventh grade and selected Monster based on a number of factors, including that it is age-appropriate, won a number of awards, is a high-engagement book for students, and provides an opportunity to discuss social and emotional issues in an appropriate setting," Jasculca said.

Wendy Daniels, a D97 parent, was among those wanting the book removed. Though her student wasn't exposed to the book — she has a fifth grader — Daniels said her friends' kids were. The parents, she added, were never told by the district that the book was being used or about its subject matter.

"We still have no idea why this book was chosen and why they thought this was the best book for seventh graders," Daniels said.

According to Jasculca, such reading materials are typically shared with families via the teacher's syllabus or during school events, such as curriculum night.

Daniels, meanwhile, said she's very unhappy with the district's decision. She adds that the book, according to many reviews she's read, is actually intended for children no younger than 13.

She said some of her friends have opted for the alternative book, but their kids still have to sit in class while the book is discussed. Daniels added that she'll opt for the alternative if Monster is still is use when her child enters the seventh grade.

"I've read other reviews online by teachers and at least 50 percent of those I read, those teachers said this book has mature content and this is what parents need to know, and that was not followed by District 97," Daniels said.

She and other parents took their concerns directly to the D97 school board after complaining to administration. The parents read excerpts from the novel during their public comments at the April 23, meeting.

Daniels, who is African American, also objected to what she says are negative stereotypes of black people depicted in the novel. She insists the book reinforces those stereotypes.

Tammy Schulz, parent of four D97 students, said she was embarrassed by the book's language. She was especially troubled by her child having to read about characters talking about a "prison gang rape."

"So this was a new topic for my 13 year old that I needed to address at home," Schulz said. Another excerpt she quoted involved a character threatening to shoot someone to death with a machine gun.

"And this struck me as odd as a quote from a book to read aloud in a culture that's rampant with school shootings. I was disappointed by that," Schulz said.

D97 administration alerted parents of its decision last Wednesday. Daniels, however, said the parents asked to be notified prior to last Tuesday's school board meeting. The administration's decision was also presented to the board at that meeting but as an FYI — the board does not vote on novels used in classrooms.

Lisa Schwartz, D97's director of instruction and assessment, said teachers are encouraged to read any pre-approved books themselves before using them in class.

"I'm sure teachers sometimes get caught in reading it along with their students but we want to make sure they're reading it in advance," Schwartz said.

Parents who opt for the alternative book can make that request directly with the teacher, Schwartz said.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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Reader Comments

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dylan goodman from lewisville  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 10:52 PM

machine guns shot him to death? really lady why don't you read the book yourself!

dylan goodman from lewisville  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 10:50 PM

these comments , so dumb, this book is a great book explaining what happens in the real world and its pretty sad that some people would lie about whats in the book to try to repeal it. im a 14 year old and have been reading and annotating it for about six weeks now and learned the flaws in the court system, humanity, chocices and family and choices, race relations, peer pressure and much more. the book is great and i admire walter dean myers incredible writing skills. "machine guns shot him" LIE

Brooks Student  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 5:29 PM

I asked my 7th grade daughter what she thought about the effort to ban the book: "Why? 'Cause they don't want their kids to know about real life? 'I don't want my baby to know about jail. I want them to think it's a wonderful place that's full of food. And then when they go there and start to cry, I won't be able to do anything about it. Oh, wait, no, I'll be able to bail them out because I'm an Oak Park parent with lots of money."

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 2:07 PM

D204 parents are protesting controversial books for kindergarteners...including one with two dads. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/aurora/ct-tl-naperville-aurora-d204-books-20130521,0,5189620.story

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 20th, 2013 5:15 PM

Thanks for the link, Bridgett. I hadn't seen that. Sad to see we're not the only town struggling with First Amendment issues in schools. I'd let the Glen Ellyn thing play out, because it sounds like they're questioning the wisdom of the removal. But in the end these things usually come down heavily in favor of the Constitutional rights of students to read a wide variety of books in schools if it goes to court. Let's hope it doesn't have to go that far.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2013 4:06 PM

From today's Trib, about a Glen Ellyn school district removing a book...http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-75996598/


Posted: May 18th, 2013 1:25 AM

Aren't these the same kids that are just 2 years or less away from being able to waltz into a Walgreens and freely purchase the morning after pill without their parents knowledge or consent? I think being worried about exposure to negative stereotypes or adult subject matter is a bit naive unless you still restrict them from watching anything but disney and nickelodeon and reading Highlights magazine.


Posted: May 18th, 2013 12:56 AM

@john from Op- Are u seriously claiming that the terms 'prudish parents & mollycoddling qualify as name calling & bullying? What a load of garbage and hypocrisy. Are you equally offended by the insults, name calling, personal attacks, disrespect & vitriol against conservatives printed in the WJ by Ken Trainor and other liberals. Actual published phrases include Teabaggers, right wing nut jobs, religious fundamentalist nut balls, nutcases, mindless conservatives, fat bloated old Republicans etc.

Mrs. Cleaver from the 1950s  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 3:51 PM

Big fight at Brooks today over one kid calling another kid the "B" word. Cops called. One kid allegedly arrested. Parent allegedly hit a cop. Yeah, Monster has no relevance to what our young, innocent kids see going on around them here on a daily basis! Now back to making dinner for Ward, Wally and the Beaver!

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 3:04 PM

Excellent idea Ms. Clare! I smell a great opportunity here for OPPL to host a community read-along. Anybody from the library wanna do a little ALA "freedom to read" outreach? We apparently need it!

Ms. Clare from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 2:55 PM

Read the book yourselves, then decide as adults whether or not to point fingers and name call. Literature can be 100 percent educational if it's taught to be appreciated and not feared. I bet the Oak Park Public Library all of you generously paid for has plenty of copies on its shelves.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 11:35 AM

Spanish, you're wrong. That's fine if you don't want to admit it, but I've been doing advocacy work for long enough on this topic to be 100% confident everything lines up against you on this one. lol I'm ok with you in a corner by yourself being wrong...but your wrongness freedom ends when it impacts the public, my kids' education, and the community. Free expression is the rule in this nation, not the exception. BTW, teachers can show R-rated movies in classes for educational purposes. Upset?

Spanish Inquisition  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 11:23 AM

Contrary to "sucks," this isn't censorship. We have movies rated for maturity. It's a question of age appropriateness and parental guidance. If religious material, not to mention prayer, can be "censored" because of parental and student sensitives, why should an adult book dealing with human degradation get a pass? What is the lesson here? That people can be inhumane? Really! "Sucks": stop crying censorship. We understand what censorship is, and this isn't it.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 11:13 AM

The National Coalition Against Censorship puts it this way: "Listening to community concerns, and taking them into account in structuring the educational environment, is not the same as removing material because someone does not agree with its contents. School officials always have the legal authority to refuse to censor something. They may need to do more to help members of their community understand why it is the right choice for children's education."

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 11:11 AM

Bridgett, it's a complicated legal web, but generally...courts tend to respect anything that is free expression/discourse related and shut down any attempt to remove material. Ideally, the district has a parent-input mechanism in place when selecting books, but the "default" state is that teachers and admins get to select texts.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 10:45 AM

Well...I guess it's easier (and not considered censorship) to never have a book placed on the curriculum, than removing it from the curriculum? Maybe the upside for those objecting to this book, is having greater insight in to the book selection process, and taking action earlier in the process?

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 9:48 AM

The problem here isn't that people object to the book. It's that heaven forbid you have to read something in school you don't like! lol It's going to happen. In fact, intellectual growth requires it. I fully support parents wishing to have input into book choice. The line that cannot be crossed, however, is asking the schools to remove something. That's the censorship. Especially after it is already in the curriculum.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 9:44 AM

I support the Bible, Quran, Vedas, Torah or any other major religious text in the classroom as literature, btw, Spanish Inquisition. Rasheed has it backwards, but hit the right theme...in public school, parents don't get to make the class read a book because of their literary/moral opinions. Book challenges ARE censorship, like it or not. And numerous orgs work hard...usually trying to convince a district to do the right thing. In this case, the district is in the right at least.

s3 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 9:43 AM

BTW, my first lit class in college included parts of the Bible from a literature/philosophical perspective - it certainly *can* be taught as part of a literature curriculum. Since its *also* used as a moral guide by part of our community, you need to be sensitive to *how* you do it. If the public schools had a class that surveyed writing styles among a broad range of religous texts, I'd be delighted.

s3 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 9:36 AM

I come down on the side of giving the educators leeway to teach books of this level of controversy. I do understand that there are different opionions and the way things are set up, there is always a chance that the curriculum decision will include things I don't want in my kid's classroom. However, I prefer (an opionion again) to deal withing things having gone past the line I want than maximizing everyones comfort level.

Spanish Inquisition  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 9:12 AM

District 97 needs to respond to parents' concerns in a more cooperative manner than to assert it knows what's best for them and their children. Our self-styled champions of free expression are too ready to stifle the opinions of others with intimidating accusations of censorship and faulty character. Assured of their own moral superiority, they have no problem censoring the views of others. Here's a test: If District 97 is so open about the books they teach, let's see them teach the Bible.

Rasheed B  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 1:17 AM

b/c the n word was used so generously. But I didn't have a problem with it and neither did my parents. I couldn't say the word at home but we all understood the reality and history of the word being used with hate and discrimination. So reading it in that context was like hearing factual news that isn't happy news but it's factual. The only one concerned was my teacher but the decision was not hers to make, it was my parents. I got called the word in my face so reading it in a book was minor.

Rasheed B  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 1:12 AM

at my home within our guidelines. That's called parenting. There are certain things that I have every right to address with my children when and how I as their parent deem it's necessary to, not when you think it's right too. That's not censorship. It's not a private school. A book as controversial as it is, no matter how good it is, shouldn't be mandatory with no exceptions in a public school. In 6th grade my teacher was concerned about me choosing to read Huck Finn for class

Rasheed B  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 1:07 AM

For everyone on the "reading this book helps my kid understand.." no it doesn't. I grew up in one of these notorious neighborhoods. I was a book worm and went to parochial school. Reading Monster would not have helped your kid understand anything about my life. It's a book...and from the sounds of it I would not want my child reading it and discussing it primarily at school without my oversight. There is nothing wrong with a parent saying I want that conversation or learning experience to be at

Ummm Outlook!?!  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 1:01 AM

Seriously Oak Park caught your flub. My first Baldwin book, and I was a huge fan, was Go Tell It On The Mountain. That was the mildest novel of his I read. That one alone, if my memory serves me correctly, included masturbation, staring at boy's penises in the restroom, juvenile violence, and possibly shooting each other with zip guns..not to mention physical and emotional abuse by his stepfather. The book was about a 13 yr old boy but it involved plenty adult themes.

OP Parent Also  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 9:21 PM

I agree, Jim. I haven't read the book but from what I have read about it, sounds to me that it's a valuable lesson on how people may be treated based on one look and not taking the time to find out more about that person. Being judged on other's expectation instead of your qualities is tough. Wouldn't that be a great lesson to teach our children? I will read the book but I must say that when my kid was in middle school, they read more advanced books than I remember reading in high school.

Jim Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 8:44 PM

"Why should children be exposed to this type of literature? Because its someone else's reality? It's been said that this type of violence happens in Austin and that our children should know about this? My children live in Oak Park and not Austin so they are not exposed to this." Perhaps the most close-minded opinion in a lengthy thread of close-minded opinions. "Why bother learning about anyone else's reality? It has no impact on me." You, sir, are part of the problem.

Another opinion  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 6:11 PM

This is a great book--about trying to find an identity in a world that gives you one on the first look. About trying to find one's way in a society that has other ideas for you. It is not just about violence. It is about truth and perception. It is about a boy who is trying to fight what others, including his parents, and his lawyer, and himself think of him. There is a lot to this book.

INOP from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 3:59 PM

I am glad everyone has an opinion and that we are all allowed to voice that opinion. But we all need to keep in mind that these are opinions and each is out own. No one should be forcing their opinion on someone else. The school district should not as well. By allowing the students and families to opt to a different novel is fine. Let us each have our own opinion and the right to allow our children to read what we deem acceptable.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 3:43 PM

OP Transplant, the difference is that other books aren't already being taught with a group of uptight parents trying to get it changed. But trust me, I'm a fan of ending book challenges all over...this one just happened to be in my backyard!

Seriously from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 3:34 PM

If you only read books about topics that will *directly* impact your life, what a sad, sad existence you must lead.

Seriously from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 3:28 PM

Outlook: "how about a wonderful James Baldwin novel for the classes to discover"... Wow. Now, look, I love Baldwin. But, um, how many of his novels have you read? Yeah. Nothing controversial there... *eyeroll*

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 3:02 PM

s3 - Kind of a reach for explaining why 12-year-olds need to read about prison rape in LA class. It will make them better citizens? Censorship Sucks - If not requiring a book is the same thing as banning it, then every other book in the world is banned by D97. Best get to protesting!

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 2:48 PM

I agree s3. Books have us experience all sorts of things we will hopefully never experience in real life. Losing a loved one, disease, poverty, killing a monarch. lol Literature is a window into the human condition. Well said.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 2:44 PM

Personally, I think the "they are being exposed to it anyway" is a weak argument. First, because that's not necessarily true. Second, because it feels like an "everybody's doing it" lazy stance. Just my opinion, of course. ;-)

s3 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 2:44 PM

Going through life without 'beatings, murder, ..." impacting your life in any way? Do you vote? Our representative government is tasked with running prisons, police forces and the judicial system. The broader health of society impacts you. There is an issue of understanding the humanity of everyone in the society you live in, even those you don't come too physically close to. Literature can be one window that gives some perspective on this.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 2:26 PM

I agree, Bridgett, that literature is a matter of opinion. Seeing fault in the book isn't a character problem in the parent...I do think trying to make the district adjust the book choice to fit their opinion IS a character fault of the parent. Thus, the censorship issue that needs to be addressed here. In fact, I would encourage parents/students to opt out if they wish. But the lesson here is in not trying to force those literary opinions on educators and other students (by requesting removal).

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 2:01 PM

As for the idea that children have to be exposed to this type of violence eventually, I disagree. I've hit my late 40's without beatings, murder, and prison sexual assault actually impacting my life in any real way. Why would it be necessary to prepare all of our kids for casual violence and prison brutality? The vast majority will, God willing, never experience these things.

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 1:51 PM

I've read the book and liked it. I still don't think it's an appropriate choice for many seventh-graders. I get that the book's violence is no worse than our children are exposed to elsewhere, but is that our district standard? "Our instructional materials aren't any more violent than your kids are exposed to elsewhere?" And I get that most 7th-graders can "handle it", but is it the district's goal to expose students to violence as long as they can handle it? There are other good books.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 1:20 PM

The rub is that one person's view of quality literature, is not necessarily another's person's. This issue is based on opinion. No one is right or wrong when talking about opinions. With opinions, any argument made for one side, could easily be flipped to support the other side. So I just don't think it's helpful, for either side, to comment on the character of the parent. Personally, whether I agree or not, I think it's great that there is parent involvement.Not all children are so fortunate.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 10:35 AM

Outlook, I encourage any literature in the classroom. But there's the rub...the critics asking for the removal of Monster are trying to limit the reading material of others because of their narrow vision of what should be included in the classroom. As far as I know, parents do not get to choose what books get taught to their students. That's the point here...depriving your own kid of the book is one thing. Trying to deprive others of their possible enjoyment is asking too much.


Posted: May 16th, 2013 8:39 AM

@censorship sucks - What you literature you and your child read at home is your own business. If the library wants to carry it, fine. I think the African American communiity should be lifted up, how about a wonderful James Baldwin novel for the classes to discover. What is the rush to explore things we do not hope for our children? Are we trying to scare them straight?

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 7:25 AM

I find it interesting that so many people opposed to the book have mentioned either A) that children need not be exposed so early B) that they would not be ready to handle it. But our job as a community--schools, parents, everybody-- is to get them ready to be responsible, thinking adults in society. That's why they need to read books like this. As a parent, I understand the instinct to protect. But it does them more harm than good in the end.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 7:22 AM

Brendan - a street is a world away in from the realities of the austin neighborhood when you live in oak park.


Posted: May 16th, 2013 6:57 AM

Why should children be exposed to this type of literature? Because its someone else's reality? It's been said that this type of violence happens in Austin and that our children should know about this? My children live in Oak Park and not Austin so they are not exposed to this.

OP Parent Also  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 6:50 AM

We are not in a rush to expose our kids to the "seedier" side of life. I do have a question though: do you know exactly what your kid does on the computer? Have you looked at what videos s/he is watching on youtube or perhaps even a TV show they are watching on hulu? I think the parents are being way beyond naive in thinking 12 and 13 year olds aren't mature enough to handle this book. I guarantee you that the kids are watching videos that would embarrass the parents.


Posted: May 16th, 2013 5:48 AM

@ Bridgett - Compromise is a wonderful thing and if the parent opts out on the book (I would, but don't have a 7th grader) the child should not have to sit through the discussion. Perhaps they have one of the Language Arts class teachers instruct a class on the alternate book. Incidentally, if this book, with all its vulgar language was a video game, it would be rated M. No child under 18 would be allowed to purchase it. If it was a movie, it would be R or NC 17 rated. Again, adult topics.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 1:09 AM

I don't have any 7th graders, so I have no skin in the game. I do find these comments interesting, though. My take: 1) D97 has offered an alternate book, a compromise. And compromise is a good thing. 2) Is it possible for us to respect how each parent chooses to raise their children, even if we do it differently? 3) Regardless if we are respected back, are we willing to be respectful? Compromise, respect diversity, do unto others. Those are some lessons I'd like my kids, by example, to learn.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 12:00 AM

nobody is forcing anything on you taxpayer. if you want your kid to read the alternative book they can. By banning the book altogether you would be forcing your views on the rest of the community.

Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:19 PM

Why are so many of you so adamant about exposing children to the seedier side of life as early as possible, through their school mandated reading material? What's the point of that? Many of our kids will be exposed to so many things as they grow up ?" no one is denying that. Why does it have to be forced on them at 12 and 13 years old? Middle schoolers are not young adults, they're children developing into their teenage years. They have plenty of time to have to deal with hard topics & they will.

Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:17 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that there are such mean, vindictive people who stoop to insults, name calling and bullying just because there are those who disagree with their viewpoint. We don't all have to agree with the book choices that are made by those in our public education ?" for which I pay heavily through my property taxes. Some of us feel that it's good to protect the innocence of our children and allow them to be children and grow up and mature at their own rate.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 10:58 PM

how many of our 12 and 13 year olds read the hunger games series last year? I don't think that the descriptions in that series were any less violent than the excerpts I've heard in this forum. This isn't about picking "the best" piece of literature. It's about starting some real thinking and conversation about crime, the criminal justice system and how we deal with these issues as a society. These topics are all very relevant for a 12 or 13 year old growing up in oak park.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 10:37 PM

I think that OPRF Student from Oak Park nailed this subject. It is the second post from the bottom. For my thinking, I draw on my 13 years of Catholic School upbringing. Our parents never faced the decision on whether books should be banned. That was done by principal and teachers (nuns and brothers). Their influence extended to our parents who would question any book that was not on the school's library list that was sent home. Did I read books that were not on the list? Absolutely! Most of the great and classic books were not on the schools list. I have made my own choices on reading all my life, not in defiance, but to expand my knowledge - all knowledge. The irony of my tale is that a brother in my high school physically and psychologically tormented me for two years. He never sexually assaulted me -- I made sure I was never alone with him. About twenty years ago I found out that he was in prison in Newfoundland for physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. The crimes that he served 10 year for were committed to two years before he was transferred to our New York Catholic. God knows how many more crimes he committed that were not uncovered. The irony of the story was that as a teenager I bought into physical discipline that was rampant in my high school. It was good for me - I was a bad boy. When I complained to my mother, she would say, you must have done something wrong. As I look back I know that banning books, beating students, and draconian restrictions on behavior was bad. As I think of all the priest and brothers who were convicted for their brutal invasions, I wonder how many were classmates at school..

Bronwyn Soell  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:53 PM

Yes, because burying your head and pretending that these are not issues kids have to deal with will make them go away. Discussing them is more likely to help kids understand how people make bad choices and how to avoid making them. As Ray Bradbury said, " You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. You just have to get people to stop reading them."

OP Parent Also  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:08 PM

Truth, Jim Smith, you are speaking the truth.

Jim Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:00 PM

5 minutes of the evening news would expose a child to far worse than what this book has to offer. Furthermore, this is happening for real within a stone's throw of Oak Park. Middle class yuppies in this town will complain about anything, primarily because they love to complain. The issue is the least important part of the process. The attention it garners is the primary motivator for objecting to something like this. What a waste of time.

op resident  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 8:07 PM

When I was young I read a lot of history, especially European. I was always amazed when I read about books being banned. How could books be bad? Then, after I grew up, I understood how books can be "bad" - because I realized I have a broader and more tolerant view of the world than most people - a view that I know comes from all the books I have read.

Violet Aura  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 6:11 PM

Oh man, I cannot believe the ignorance. A 13-year-old is mature enough to understand these sort of themes and what is even more mind-boggling is the number of parents who think it's okay to give their teens iPads and laptops and use them unsupervised (where they can view hardcore porn) and yet this book is beyond the pale. Unfortunately not all parents are very intellectual. They may have the equipment but not the sensibility to understand the value of art. Taking things literally is dumb.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 6:01 PM

OP Transplant, censorship is exactly what it is. Check out the link I provided sponsored by the American Library Association. They file the topic on their main website as "Censorship in the Schools." They keep a list of frequently challenged books. It's a horrible topic to have to still be defending in the 21st century yet this sort of school issue happens over 300 times a year around the nation. This book was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature!

OP Parent Also  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 5:23 PM

This discussion is what frightens me about Oak Park. It's changing and not for the better. It's not about "protecting" our children, of course they should be protected. But sheltered is a different issue. I think most 7th graders wouldn't give a thought to this book if there hadn't been this raucous about it. I read plenty of controversial books in my middle school years and guess what? I never actually did any of the things I read about in those books. Stop pretending your kids are that naive

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:55 PM

Also, on a side note to "Censorship Sucks", please take a few minutes to look up the word "censorship". No one is questioning whether children should be allowed to read Monster. We are questioning whether they should be required to read Monster. A book is not censored simply because it is not made required reading district wide.

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:45 PM

The type and level of violence in Monster makes it, at best, a dubious choice for required reading in the seventh grade. And the fact that children are likely to be exposed to violent imagery outside of school does not mean that we must expose them to it in school, as well. I don't see the sense in choosing a book as part of district curriculum if it requires the offering of an alternate text. There are countless other very good books that could be shared by the entire class.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:30 PM

For the record, it's a personal choice. I don't care if you find the book inappropriate, offensive, etc.. Don't read it. The line here is don't ask others to not get to study this award-winning book because YOU have a problem with it. It really is YOUR problem. Not the book's. That is where I think some of these parents are confused.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:24 PM

The easy way to end the bickering, again, is to let the kids decide for themselves how they feel. Gee, imagine teaching kids to think about and have a discussion about the material! Who is doing the bullying in this situation? Is it bullying to ask the community to not be held up to ridicule for being so dumb that we disrespect the printed word by keeping our children from it?

OP Parent Cntd.   

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:16 PM

Children need a realistic and honest view of the world they live in. Sheltering them does little but prolong the truth. This doesn't mean we expose them to everything but when the topics arise - we can discuss the it. also, as a father with black chidren, I want my kids to be aware and informed. Also, the social media our children deal with is more direct/less filtered.

RLM from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 4:09 PM

Whether you think the book is appropriate or not, let's kill the notion that the kids IN middle school aren't being exposed to this stuff. I read the texts, instagrams, and FB posts of the SIXTH graders at our wonderful middle schools at least weekly via my regular check of my daughter's social media...they have an innocence about them by the virtue of being 11-14, but their exposure to taboo topics is far greater than you all realize, whether they tell you or not.

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 3:57 PM

Ms. Claire - Did you really just come down against sheltering children from violence? You're in a big hurry to add that into their lives? Seventh grade means twelve and thirteen, usually. Are they too old to be sheltered? Why?

Guillermo Delgado  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 3:35 PM

"As I write more honestly more kids will make their way toward me. And in subverting their repressive parents kids will learn the value of subverting the repressive nature of all authority figures." ~Sherman Alexie

Ms. Clare from Oak Park   

Posted: May 15th, 2013 3:28 PM

Either these teenagers can learn about some of the realities in the lives of those that live only blocks from their houses- in Chicago's Austin neighborhood- while living in their safely protected Oak Park homes, or they can learn about them later in life, when their parents can no longer protect them. To choose to remove this book from the reading curriculum is choosing to continue to shelter Oak Park youth from what surrounds them. Teach your children, well.

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 3:24 PM

So, if I don't think that twelve-year-olds should be required by public school curriculum to read a novel that deals with violence that included prison sexual assault, I'm "prudish". I'm not "progressive" or "intellectual." Because, apparently, exposing children to violence is one of the hallmarks of intellectual, progressive thought. I guess they've got to learn about prison rape somewhere. Why not in the public school classroom? Really?

View from the right from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 2:52 PM

Incredibly sad that some commenators consider this appropriate for 7th graders. Let's make sure that no one can get out of junior high school with a wholesome attitude. D97 can either be an agent for positive values or expose children to inappropriate topics. Yet another reason to homeschool!

John from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 2:50 PM

@ Censorship sucks... "prudish parents" and "mollycoddling" are name calling and bullying - please stop and keep your comments focused on the topic. Also incorrectly concluding that these cause depravity in children is not true. Please stop bullying. Thank you

OP parent  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 2:18 PM

Hey, I'm impressed that the middle school is doing something so ambitious as teaching a real novel. Just a few years ago all my son got was worksheets and movies.

OP Parent Ctnd.   

Posted: May 15th, 2013 1:09 PM

@ you. you are correct. My middle school child told me 6th grade kids bring weed to school hidden in cases.. sell it and some drink. Rather than looking with scorn, this is a good way to discuss life, choices and all that come with it...

You have to be kidding me...  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:55 PM

Do any of the parents who object to this reading material actually read what their middle school kids and their peers are saying to each other on Instagram? I do, because I am watching. Do they even know what bad choices some of their kid's middle school peers are making at this time? I do, because I ask my kid what is going on. This is laughable for a suburb sandwiched by low income areas. You people are oblivious to what is going on out there. Must be nice to lead sheltered lives

OP Parent   

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:42 PM

I spent time with my parents asking what happended to OP? They were trailblazers in the 70's in OP - their response was OP has had a generational change - where true thinkers/ progressives /intellectuals have been replaced by yuppies who desperately want to feel needed and are insecure ... cant say i disagreee

OP Parent  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:38 PM

Are we really doing our children a service by removing some of the reality of life and the circumstances which lead to very different outcomes. This book is as much about choices and the hard reality many chidren grow up in as mature themes. Perhaps if the new generation of what to be yuppies (vs. real progressives of Oak PArk last generation) stop trying to tell everyone else how to live - we would be better off.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:23 PM

@OP Transplant What you're talking about is self-selected marginalization. Which is fine. Let's not debate, however, whether a few prudish parents who wish to mollycoddle their children can deprive others the right to read said book. If you don't want to feel alienated, read the darn book, say you felt it was offensive, and leave it at that like a reasonable person. It's a skill these students need to learn, too. Heaven forbid we corrupt the youth...that's what they got Socrates for, btw.

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:12 PM

Anything that encourages kids to read is good. They might enjoy "reading something they shouldn't." But, secondly, the real point is that--I say this as a parent--the kids should be deciding for themselves what they think. The real question here is who gets to decide what is appropriate. Can I get Shakespeare challenged because I object to my middle school student reading suicide, murder, the occult, sexuality? Do we really want to be one of towns mocked nationally for complaining about a book?

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 12:10 PM

"Censorship Sucks" - Your own reading skills appear to be lacking. This isn't a discussion about whether Monster should be banned. It's a discussion about whether Monster should be a required element of the district's language arts curriculum. D97 is telling students they MUST read this book, or be marginalized into a second-tier "alternate text" assignment. Either read Monster, or be in the "special" group.

John from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:59 AM

This is exactly what is wrong with the current educational culture. Why don't we leave the discussion of tabu topics to responsible adults - PARENTS - and have education focus on teaching reading, writing, and critical thinking skills with materials much better suited for accomplishing this?

OP Transplant  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:46 AM

The question isn't whether Monster is a good book. I've read it; it is. The question is whether it's the only good book, so far surpassing others that twelve-year-olds should be required to read it, even if their parents object. Why does the district choose curriculum that is controversial and potentially divisive, given the countless other books students could read? There are other good books that don't require that twelve-year-olds be exposed to the idea of prison rape, etc.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 11:28 AM

Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, The Jungle, Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five all contained quite a few disturbing scenes and language. I'm not saying Monster is anywhere near this literary level but I consider those to be some of the best books I read in read school and consider myself lucky that we had a middle and high-school English program that supported the reading of such books.

Op resident  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 10:51 AM

I opted to not have my child read this book. Having said that, I am reading it myself and can see within the work why it has won awards. However, the language and theme are adult in nature, no matter what society says.There is a time and a place for children to learn "the ways of the world" and it is definitely not in the seventh grade with this book. Our safe environment is our home, where my son feels the safest to let his guard down and ask questions, not in the classroom with twenty students

Censorship sucks  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 10:36 AM

Totally understand if parents want to opt-out with another book. But good for the school district to encourage the reading of controversial material! Books should be read, not banned. I encourage everybody to visit the ALA's Banned Books Week (Sept 22-28) website to find out more about challenged books and the freedom to read. http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ Read banned books!

s3 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:57 AM

As far as librarians input, the American Library Association gave it their awared for excellence in young adult literature.

s3 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:54 AM

Note sure where the reviews are that people are referring to or the age apprpriateness. Kirkus reviews says "12-14" and '...Myers's point: the road from innocence to trouble is comprised of small, almost invisible steps, each involving an experience in which a "positive moral decision" was not made.'. The point of a book is more than cherry-picked set of the most troubling lines you can find. I can do the same to Shakespeare.


Posted: May 15th, 2013 9:52 AM

I want to clarify one thing. For me, questioning this selection of this book is just that, it is not a condemnation of all of the other hard work and great things the district does. My kids are getting a great education, this book seems at odds with that. I do expect to be able to have an opportunity to question, and to have a fair explanation when I do. Not all parents object to this choice and I respect that too. So far I do not understand how this book fits the curriculum, that's all.

OP parent  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 8:49 AM

Okay, this is sad/disappointing/infuriating... (choose one or more). There are so many books that deserve and need to be exposed to 7th graders. This is not one of them! I'm curious how many librarians participated in this review panel or in the selections for middle school literature study. This is a FAILURE in our schools' leadership!

Tammy Schulz  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 8:30 AM

Thanks Outlook for your encouragement to the Board to have the final decision in this. I'm puzzled by why the administration thinks that this is the BEST material for educational excellence. And also why they don't think that D97 teachers prepare for class by reading material in advance?


Posted: May 15th, 2013 8:27 AM

For me the most important question is why was this book chosen for the 7th grade curriculum, a question that the panel did not answer. What educational purpose is served by this book? As parents we are asked to partner with teachers to foster the best education we can, and this book prompted many questions, which remain unanswered. This book may serve a great purpose at some point, but is it the best choice to serve the objectives of the 7th gr curriculum? Would no other book work as well?

lrv from oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 7:52 AM

These are some more excerpts for all 7th graders in d97 PAGE 80-81 OSVALDO "He goes to that faggot school downtown. All they learn there is how to be a faggot. FREDDY "You let him dis you like that, man?" OSVALDO "He don't have no choice. He mess with me and the Diablos will burn him up. Ain't that right, faggot?" STEVE "I can kick your narrow butt any day in the week." OSVALDO "Well, here it is, so why don't you come and kick it?"

lrv from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 7:51 AM

I am posting a FEW of the excerpts from the book. They might be too explicit for publication in your journal.... so lets have our 7th graders read it aloud without parental consent.

lrv from oak park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 7:49 AM

PAGE: 57 Inside the detention center; "We hear the sounds of fists methodically punching someone ? we see two inmates silhouetted, beating a third." "?and the sounds become those of a sexual attack against the inmate who was beaten." PAGE 59 "They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can't kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment." PAGE: 73 Death Row, death chamber; "Open your legs; we have to plug up your butt so you don't mess yourself"

OPRF Student from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2013 7:09 AM

Give me a break! This is a perfect example of what is wrong with our culture... sex, drugs, racism- OH NO! But wait! What if a teacher, a responsible adult, could encourage a classroom conversation that would facilitate an environment where these topics can be discussed in an open and productive way. The more we restrict, ban, and make these topics tabu, the more they are going to be on peoples' mind; especially young people who are coming into adulthood looking for answers. Kudos to D97!


Posted: May 15th, 2013 6:58 AM

D97 needs to re-evaluate this. This in not what 7th graders need in their literature curriculum. There are much better book choices out there.

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