Part three (and the last in this series since I’m thoroughly sick of thinking about Nineteen Minutes and its underhanded, nasty advocates) will detail the lead up to the Kennett Consolidated School District’s November 10, 2014 board meeting, the meeting itself, and the aftermath of the meeting.
Though I will be linking to other editorials and possibly other news articles in this post, I will be primarily referring to this Daily Local News story. I will try to make this post as brief as possible while ensuring that all pertinent information is recorded, since the newspapers do not bother to tell both sides.
I’ll begin with this passage from the above news story from the perspective of the KCSD.
The KCSD (as stated in the Daily Local News article) would have people believe that one lone woman had an issue with the book Nineteen Minutes. This is false. Anyone who chooses to do a bit of investigating can find stories from other schools all over America where parents took issue with this book. However, I must state here, for the record, that Angela John, my friend, was NOT the only person in the Kennett School District concerned about this book.
Please glance at the last paragraph of policy 109, above. You’ll see that if there is still dissatisfaction, a “hearing” will be scheduled. While my friends were trying, for months, to deal with this school and school board, we got together for coffee to discuss progress. At one of our get-togethers, Angie showed me the notice from the Superintendent stating that she could bring her concerns to the table at a hearing. The letter stated that only Angie could be present at this hearing (though she could, if she wished to, bring her husband along). Hello?
Does this school realize how heavy handed they sound? The taxpayers, including Angie, pay their salaries, yet they must request “hearings” on important matters concerning their own children.
That brings me to another point. After the November 10th debacle, several local papers posted links on their Facebook Pages. Angie stayed away from newspapers, since she was devastated by what happened, but I read every article and every editorial. The comments by people who may or may not know Angie were nasty and quite ignorant, but there was one in particular that stood out. On the Kennett Paper’s Facebook page, a woman commented: “The person who complained doesn’t have a child in the High School.” Excuse me?
Number 1) Any taxpayer has a say, as long as their kids are in the district.
2) This woman is a parishioner at the same church Angie attends. (I’m also a parishioner at this church, but I’ve never met this woman). This person and Angie are acquainted. She could have followed the advice of Christ, and asked Angie in person about her concerns instead of showing up in public and joining a group accusing a neighbor of “banning” books.
3) There were other parents who DO have kids in the High School who were concerned about Nineteen Minutes. I know this for a fact. The night of the hearing, another friend, one who has two kids attending Kennett High School went to the hearing. When we read the letter KCSD had sent to Angie we laughed a little. Though it sounded very intimidating, we couldn’t imagine that it would come to the point of actually throwing another concerned parent and taxpayer out of the “hearing.” But that’s exactly what happened. No one else could present their concerns about Nineteen Minutes at the hearing.
In addition to the graphic portrayal of teen sex between Josie and her boyfriend Matt, digs at traditional Americans and religion, and normalization of abortion in general, here’s something else. Many parents might take issue with ninth and tenth graders being exposed to the following in school. In this excerpt from page 323 of Nineteen Minutes, Josie, the teen who survived the school shooting and Matt’s girlfriend, believes she is pregnant. After contemplating asking her estranged father for money for an abortion, Josie decides to google some old wives tales, just in case.
There was something about going to a doctor, or a clinic, or even to a parent, that she couldn’t quite swallow. It seemed so…deliberate…..
Some she already knew: the old wives’ tales about sticking a knitting needle up inside her, or drinking laxatives or castor oil. Some she’d never imagined: douching with potassium, swallowing ginger root, eating unripe pineapple. And then there were the herbs: oil infusions of calamus, mugwort, sage,and wintergreen; cocktails made out of black cohosh and pennyroyal…..
Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of water, 3-4 times a day. Don’t confuse tansy with tansy ragwort, which has been fatal to cows that have eaten it growing nearby.
Really? Is a book containing such a passage really worth all of this? If kids want the damn book they can buy it at Barnes and Noble or borrow it from the public library. Or their parents can give it to them if they’re so hell bent on having their kids read it. Why is it necessary for this book to be paid for by taxpayers and read in class? Why is it necessary for every kid in the school to have this trash pushed on them? Apparently the Kennett librarian is infatuated with this book. She said in a meeting that she goes into classrooms and reads passages aloud to students. (One can only hope that the above passage isn’t one of her favorites).
Okay. Back to the lead up to the November 10th School Board meeting. At the hearing, what Angie mistakenly thought was a compromise was reached. Angie left the hearing with the understanding that Nineteen Minutes would remain in Kennett High School. The other attendees of this hearing agreed that the final vote would be on the following: Kennett High School could either place the book Nineteen Minutes in the guidance counselor’s office so younger students who might not have a good support system at home could be cautioned about what they might read, or the book could be kept without restriction. In no way does KEEPING a book in the guidance counselor’s office constitute a “ban.” So…how did the word “ban” come into play? Nobody knows, but here is a timeline of events leading up to the actual meeting.
After the hearing which other concerned parents were not permitted to attend, rumors began circulating that “some woman” was trying to ban books. The rumor was heard at the Bayard Taylor Library in Kennett Square. The rumor was also being spread in one of the New Garden polling places on election day, November 4th. People coming into the polling place to vote were told that someone was trying to “ban” books at Kennett High School. All of this talk of “banning” did the trick.
On the evening of November 10th, my friend Angie went to the school board meeting alone. She had asked me to go with her, and I said no. I had no idea what was going to happen and neither did she. I’m pretty sure Angie’s husband did end up joining her at the meeting before it ended, but I wish I had gone. She could have used a friend.
The room where the school board met that night was filled with adults and students wearing “We Read Banned Books” buttons. There was quite a large group. Angie told me she was sitting quietly and wondering what the hell was going on, since the vote was to decide whether the book should be kept under age restrictions. A group of about 5-6 kids sat nearby, along with a few parents. Angie decided to ask them why they were at the meeting. Following is the paraphrased conversation:
Angie: Why are you all here?
Students: Our teachers asked us to come, because some lady is trying to ban books in our library.
Angie: Oh no…that’s not what’s going on. I’m the person who’s concerned about the book, but I didn’t ask for it to be banned. I’m just concerned about kids. Some kids may be too young to read what’s in the book, so we should make sure they can be talked to by someone like the counselor.”
Students: What? You’re the lady?
Angie: Yes. It’s me, but I don’t want to ban books.
Students: We didn’t know. We were told by our teachers to come tonight to support the school because someone wanted to ban books. We didn’t know.
Angie related that the parents accompanying this group sat staring straight ahead. They heard every word she said, but they didn’t say a word to her. The group of students, however, thanked Angie.
Back to the meeting. In the Daily Local News article above, there is not one word about the book being moved. The word “ban” was used throughout. “Moved” or “kept under age appropriate restriction” was not mentioned. In my previous post I linked to tweets between myself and Candice Monhollan, the reporter who covered the story. She tweeted to me that the school did NOT disclose the fact that the request was that this book be placed under age restriction. I don’t understand why, but for some reason this was left out. People can draw their own conclusions as to why.
People were wearing buttons. Students spoke about free speech. Teachers spoke out in defense of Nineteen Minutes, and said “banning” books was against freedom of speech, etc. That wasn’t the worst thing, though. The worst thing was the fact that the school board played right along with these uninformed people. This meeting was mob-like. (One news article described the crowd as “civil.” Yeah, sure). The board whipped things up a bit more before they went on to other business. Following is a quote from board member Rudy Alphonso:
“I think about the principles that our Founding Fathers laid ground for us (and) all the battles and all the people that have died over our 200-plus years to keep these fundamental freedoms in place and to allow us to have the choice whether or not we want to read something or not read something,” he said in his statement. “Banning this book, to me, would almost be like turning my back on all those hundreds of thousands of American veterans, men and women, who have died to allow us to keep those freedoms and not to have censorship. I see this attempt to ban this book as if we live in Nazi Germany. This is the United States of America. The Statue of Liberty rings for everyone.”
This man and the other board members must have known that the book wasn’t leaving the school, yet he mentioned Nazi Germany. How unbelievably pathetic. Two other members of the school board are fellow parishioners. They also knew a ban was not requested, yet they allowed students and parents to think this was the case. I don’t know these people personally, though I do attend the same church. I must admit that I’m glad I don’t know them, and I hope I never meet them. I don’t think we worship the same God. The lone school board member who voted to place the book in the guidance office was also dissed and misrepresented by the newspapers, of course.
In addition to my tweets to Ms. Monhollan, I ventured a couple of comments on the Facebook post from the Daily Local News, linked to the story above. I wanted to embed the post here, but I can’t find it on the DL Facebook wall at this time. I don’t know why, but it seems to be gone. If anyone reading this comes across it, let me know. Anyway, in my comment I mentioned the fact that a “ban” wasn’t what was asked for. People came back at me stating that restricting is similar to banning, or some such nonsense. One commenter stated that the Kennett Librarian was probably following recommendations from other schools and libraries and or librarians. That may well be true. For instance, look at the following article from the School Library Journal, “The world’s largest reviewer of books, multimedia and technology for children and teens.”
This is a review of Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind Of Girl,” reviewed by the SLJ, who also put out a list of “Best Adult Books For Teens of 2014.” Some of you may be familiar with Dunham and her memoirs. If not you can do more googling. But please understand that the School Library Journal recommends Dunham’s book for teens. If the Kennett Librarian follows such publications, perhaps Dunham’s book is sitting on the shelf. Who knows?
Again, please read the comments following the Daily Local News article. Following are additional news articles for your perusal from The Unionville Times (Banned Books Button pictured), and The Times of Chester County. Actually this is the same article. It appeared in two different publications.
Here’s an editorial stating that “Censorship died an ugly, messy death in Kennett Monday night. Let us hope this topic never comes up again.” Here’s a particularly snarky and ignorant post by someone named Tilda Talley-ho. Miss Talley-ho brings up Holocaust deniers. How very kind and tolerant. I could go on, but people with open minds probably get the drift.
Here’s a word of warning. Take it or leave it as you see fit. The people behind this debacle misrepresented a good person. They probably forgot about it the next day, but it will always be with the person who was maligned. If you’re wearing blinders there’s not much anyone can say, and I doubt anyone who is wearing blinders would read this post anyway. But if you’re paying attention, take note. Some people just “don’t want to get involved.” Okay. That’s all well and good. Just remember what happens to people who continually walk right down the middle of the road. People or animals or whatever. Anything that insists on mincing down the middle of the road is going to get knocked aside sooner or later. Not standing up when good people are trashed enables the bad guys to get away with it. Someday it may be you or your family or friends who are savaged.
It took me a month to get through Nineteen Minutes. That’s one month of reading time I will never get back. Still, I felt I had to read the damn thing, since my friend was branded a Nazi over it. I was chatting online with a young friend about this situation. (This man recently married, and the Nineteen Minutes debacle I described made him consider homeschooling any future children). My friend told me we should donate Kama Sutra to the High School Library. I told him I didn’t know what Kama Sutra was. (That’s true. I didn’t know what it was until that day). He lol’d and said he thought everyone had heard about it. I hadn’t, but for all I know it could be in some school library somewhere. I wouldn’t make a bet. As of this time, I am putting this damned book, its advocates and the rest of this behind me. I grew up within ten miles of Kennett Square, but things have changed since I was a kid. Apparently I don’t belong in this area. It’s not a very friendly place to live at this time.
Kennett High School does hold some sentimental value for me, since my parents met there. They both graduated from Kennett. However, I’m very thankful that my children are grown and have moved away. Not very far away, but far enough that their kids will never be subjected to a school district populated with people who do what the people running that school district did to a decent, concerned parent. For that I am truly thankful.
Update– I spoke to my friend Angie, who wanted to say a few additional words about this situation.
My only concern was the safety and well being of the children of Kennett Consolidated School District. I was disappointed to witness the vote on November 10th. The school board and the adults who spoke at the meeting acting in a non-serious manner. They joked about having the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the library as well. The entire board were laughing except for the one serious, upright board member, Doug Sterling. Mr. Stirling was the only person who showed strength and intelligence by voting to have the book moved.
I didn’t think the situation was funny. As someone who worked with inner city children in my capacity as a social worker, I was quite saddened by the board’s lack of care and concern for the children of KCSD. I felt pity for the other adults as well. The teachers, parents and other administrators are either ignorant, or afraid to publicly acknowledge (for whatever reason) that there are some things in print that are not age appropriate. They refused to stand up and protect the kids, who may run the risk of either being harmed or harming others because of the information in Nineteen Minutes. The book detailed dangerous actions that the characters take out of desperation. How can one not see that this book needs to only be available with adult care and guidance? Any other decision is irresponsible, and does not place the children’s well being front and center. Very sad.
Her words make complete sense. However, the people running the KCSD got their way. I hope they’re happy.