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Hadley students ask board to reconsider banning of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'

GLEN ELLYN – Following the District 41 Board of Education's April 29 decision to remove "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky from classrooms at Hadley Junior High School, several students attended Monday's meeting to ask the board to reconsider.

"The people who have challenged this book should not be able to take away the rights of others to read this book because they do not feel it is appropriate for their children to be surrounded by," said Libby Howard, eighth-grader at Hadley Junior High.

After parents of an eighth-grade student objected to the presence of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" at Hadley, a Reconsideration Committee made up of school and district faculty, staff and one parent met March 14 to hear from objecting parents Jennifer and Brian Bradfield and teacher Tina Booth, according to the committee's report to the board.

During the meeting, the Bradfields expressed their concerns about the book's sexual content and inappropriate language, according to the report. Booth explained students in her classroom chose to read the book independently, could stop reading it at any point and had to secure the book themselves since there were no copies in her particular classroom, according to the report.

The Reconsideration Committee recommended the board retain the book at Hadley for eighth-grade independent reading purposes only and not for instruction. Members also recommended that parents receive a letter from Hadley teachers at the start of each trimester – rather than each school year – about the importance of being aware of their children's choice of reading materials.

However, in a vote of 4-2, the recommendation was rejected by the board. The two dissenting votes were from board members Terra Costa Howard and Erica Nelson. John Kenwood was not present for the vote.

"Our innocent child has already been tainted," Brian Bradfield said April 29. "These kids – we make a decision whether they're going to be tainted or not."

On Monday, those who spoke on this topic during public comment disagreed with the board's decision. Students said they didn't want their ability to read certain books to be determined by other parents in the district and board members, rather than their own parents. Many also said certain objectionable passages in the book were focused on rather than its overall message.

"This book gave me hope," said Carly Basler, Hadley eighth-grader. "This book inspired me. This book showed me my differences are my strengths."

Last week, some Hadley students demonstrated their support for the book by placing sticky notes with drawings of flowers and quotes from the book on walls in the school, Hadley teachers said. They also started their own petition, which was sent to board members, teachers said.

At the end of public comment, Superintendent Ann Riebock said the district plans to engage with Hadley literacy teachers to discuss conversations from both meetings in hopes of creating a win-win situation for everyone.

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