January 17, 2017

Mo. school board keeps ban on Sherman Alexie book

STOCKTON, Mo. (AP) – A southwest Missouri school board voted to keep in place its ban on a National Book Award-winning novel about a Native American boy after hearing from parents who object to its strong language and sexual imagery.
The Stockton School Board voted 7-0 Wednesday to continue to ban “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The board also voted against a proposal to return the book to the high school library with restrictions.
The book was read in high school classes last school year until the board voted in April to ban it, after the parent of an elementary school student complained about its content. About 200 people attended Wednesday's public meeting on the issue, including many who want the ban rescinded.
The book by Sherman Alexie is about a young boy who leaves his school at an Indian reservation to attend a mostly-white high school. Supporters of the book say it includes issues that all teens deal with, but is aimed at teens in low-income, mostly rural areas. It includes sexual language, off-color jokes, and discussions of masturbation, racism, alcoholism and violence. It also tells how the boy tries to realize his dreams while surviving life on the reservation and at a new school.
The Springfield New-Leader reports that the board was not swayed by the several awards the book has won, including the 2007 National Book Award for young people's literature.
“We can take the book and wrap it in those 20 awards everyone else said it won and it still is wrong,” said board member Ken Spurgeon.
Supporters of the ban said it reflected community values in Stockton.
Mike Holzknecht, who has two children in Stockton schools, displayed several large copies of pages in the book, one of which described masturbation.
“I am proud of you guys for saying no. Here's the limit,” he said to the board, pointing to the pages. “We're not going to take it. It's an insult to my son and my daughter to say we have to have stuff like this in our schools to make them read.”
Supporters of the book said the issue is about the freedom to read. They said the board acted hastily and did not consult teachers before imposing the ban.
High school student Dakota Freeze, who wants to pursue politics and the law, told the board she wanted the book in the curriculum.
“This book in a nutshell is my hope,” she said. “It's not about giving up. It's about not letting people tell you you're not worth it.”
Several national groups, including the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, oppose the ban.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader,