Decision made on controversial book

“We put people in the same room that didn’t agree and they worked it out, they listened and they tried to eliminate some of the emotion.”


—Trustee Kathy Bedikian


Sunday Times Newspapers


WYANDOTTE — A compromise has been reached by the committee formed to review a controversial book in a Roosevelt High School class’s curriculum.


A Reconsideration Committee was approved by the Board of Education in early February to evaluate the appropriateness of “The Bookseller of Kabul” which is part of the 11th grade honors English reading list.
In November, resident Libbie Hall came to the Board of Education with concerns about specific passages in the nonfiction book, which chronicles everyday life in Afghanistan and is taught in order to expose students to different cultures.


Jamie Sarna, a friend of Hall and a student in the class, brought passages to Hall’s attention that describe bestiality and rape in the context of the conditions of Afghan women who are dominated by men.


The six-member committee — led by librarian Annette Haley and including teachers Rob Keast and Warren Baker, Roosevelt principal Mary McFarlane, Hall and resident Rod Lesko — came to a compromise during its Feb. 25 meeting.


“Bookseller” will remain on library shelves and still will be included in the class’s curriculum. However, a parental stamp will be placed on the inside of the back cover of library copies requiring parental permission for students 17 years old and younger to check the book out.


In addition, the high school English Department will provide a list of books for parents with reviews, ratings and synopses. Students also will have the option to not read a book on the list if parents object, and still may continue with the course.


If a student decides not to read a book, the teacher will work with parents individually to substitute an appropriate book.


Despite earlier concerns of board members that the committee was “hastily put together,” the board agreed during Tuesday’s meeting that the decision was satisfactory.


“They were prepared and seemed to satisfied the concerns of almost everybody,” said Trustee Michael Swiecki. “Of course not everybody was 100 percent satisfied, but we saw a very workable piece.”


Vice President Kevin Van Boxell said he was glad to see that the committee’s effort was successful.
“There was a lot of concern on whether the committee would work out or not, but we brought people together and it worked,” he said.


Trustee Kathy Bedikian said while she was not able to stay for the entire meeting, parents have given her positive feedback about the committee’s decision.


“People in the community just say what an extraordinary committee that was,” she said. “We put people in the same room that didn’t agree and they worked it out, they listened and they tried to eliminate some of the emotion.”


She added that she was proud of all the committee members who volunteered their time to come to the decision.


“I am very grateful that they did that work,” she said. “We put together a good group of people.”


President Robert Kirby said the committee accomplished more than he expected. He said there was some discussion during board meetings before the committee met about an issue of students opting out of the book not being able to take honors English.


“They addressed that,” he said. “They fixed the problem that we all felt was going to be coming up next, and the committee handled it.


“I appreciate their hard work.”