In September, the Highland Park Independent School District (ISD) in the Dallas metro area pulled seven books off its approved high school English literature shelves, then put six back on, and has been bickering over one in particular ever since — Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain.
On Monday, November 24, the latest chapter unfolded over the district controversy. A 12-person committee of parents, teachers and administrators, formed in response to the dissention, voted to reinstate The Art of Racing in the Rain as appropriate reading for grade 10 and up. The story is told through a dog’s perspective. It is being taught in English II. Parents may still appeal the decision.
The controversy swirling around the best-selling novel was centered on a section in the storyline where an underage girl falsely accuses a race car driver of sexual molestation and tries to force herself on him, according to Dallas Magazine.
Breitbart Texas spoke with Highland Park ISD Communications Director Helen Williams when the issue originally erupted. At the time, she said that The Art ofRacing In The Rain reading had been halted.
She also pointed out, “One of the misconceptions is that the books are banned. They aren’t banned. They are under review,” voicing the similar sentiments from district superintendent Dawson Orr and Highland Park High School (HPHS) principal Walter Kelly, who addressed the uproar in late September via online communication in which they pledged to resolve the questionable book problem.
Orr and Kelly followed suit again on November 25 after the reinstatement of The Art of Racing in the Rain.
In the course of this conflict, two parent groups emerged, according to the Texas Tribune.
Speak Up for Standards promotes the establishment of an educator-community partnership to determine “age-appropriate literature selection” of which all district lists and books would then meet those determined standards.
They believed that a “child’s formal education should expose him to a broad spectrum of views, but explicit and vulgar writings are not warranted” and noted an impetus behind their mission as the resistance, isolation and unreasonable consequences families face “attempting to ‘opt out’ of a book”.
“Some students were told their grades would suffer if they changed books. Students have also been subject to tests covering the materials they have opted out of, and received failing grades as a result. Additionally, when a request for an alternate book was accommodated, at times teachers did not provide an alternate choice that established the same course objective and afforded the student an equal opportunity to learn,” the website claimed.
The other group, HP Kids Read, insisted that Highland Park ISD “curriculum needs to be chosen by professional educators familiar with students’ educational needs and abilities. These professionals are entitled to deference when their choices are grounded in sound educational and pedagogical principles.”
While they believed that parents had the right to choose what is acceptable for their children to read, “they do not have the right to make that choice impact all students,” they asserted on their website.
Previously, Williams told Breitbart Texas that she’d been in the school district for 11 years and never saw a book challenged before, although books are challenged nationwide all the time.
The Texas Tribune pointed out in their article that elementary school parent Marie Briner took exception to some book curriculum content. “As a former Dallas County prosecutor in the child abuse division, she said that if she had found the material in a police investigation, she would have entered it as evidence that a defendant was trying to ‘groom’ potential victims.”
Conversely, other parents “argued on behalf of a diverse reading list that reflected a variety of socioeconomic, racial and political viewpoints was essential in the district, which serves students in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the state,” according to the Tribune.
The district is reviewing its instructional materials adoption policies. Currently, teachers and administrators choose these materials. The decision to ask for parental consent is made at the campus level. Orr told the Tribune, those procedures lacked clarity as did the process of challenging the materials. The board next meets on December 9 with updates on this matter.
Those other six books that were suspended and reinstated were Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Hesse’s Siddhartha, Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, Walls’ The Glass Castle: A Memoir, and Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America, Breitbart Texas previously reported.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom