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D41 staff to present revised recommendation for 'Wallflower' at May 28 board meeting

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013 9:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:59 p.m. CDT

GLEN ELLYN – Following a strong response from community members to District 41's banning of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" from Hadley Junior High classrooms, district administrators are preparing a revised proposal to bring to the Board of Education regarding the issue.

The board previously voted April 29 to remove the book by Stephen Chbosky from classrooms after parents of an eighth-grade student objected to its sexual content and inappropriate language.

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

The board's 4-2 vote went against a recommendation by the district's Reconsideration Committee made up of school and district faculty, staff and one parent to keep the book in Hadley classrooms for independent reading and not instruction.

Committee 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.

At the board's May 6 meeting, several Hadley students asked the board to reconsider its decision.

Students said they didn't want their ability to read certain books to be determined by district parents and board members, rather than their own parents. Many also said certain objectionable passages in the book were considered by the board, instead of its overall message.

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

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" tells the story of high school freshman Charlie as he deals with issues such as sex, drugs and a friend's suicide. It ranked third on the American Library Association's most challenged books list in 2009.

In the days following the board vote, 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.

Another petition was launched online at www.change.org. It asks the board to "please reconvene and vote to support freedom of speech and the pursuit of knowledge, rather than censorship and the limitation of young minds." The petition reached 122 signatures as of Friday evening.

In an email to district families, Superintendent Ann Riebock said district administrators have gone back to the issue of the book's removal in hopes of finding a way to retain reading choices for Hadley students while improving parental involvement in those choices.

Riebock said she expects staff will present a revised recommendation at the May 28 Board of Education meeting. The board would then take action on the recommendation no sooner than its meeting June 10.

"I can't say at this time what the revised recommendation will be nor can I predict what action the BOE (Board of Education) may choose to take," Riebock said in the email. "I can say that the voices and perspectives shared by our constituents have been measured and thoughtful, and have been appreciated by the BOE members and staff."

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