GLEN ELLYN – In response to the Glen Ellyn District 41 Board of Education's decision to remove "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky from Hadley Junior High classrooms, supporters of the book have started an online petition that asks board members to reconsider.
The petition, which 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," reached 74 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
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 that 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.
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 at the April 29 board meeting, 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."
Following the vote, several Hadley students attended the board's meeting on May 6 to ask the board to reconsider its decision to remove "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" from the school's classrooms.
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," said Carly Basler, Hadley eighth-grader. "This book inspired me. This book showed me my differences are my strengths."
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.
At the May 6 board meeting, Superintendent Ann Riebock said the district plans to engage with Hadley literacy teachers to discuss conversations from both board meetings in hopes of creating a win-win situation for everyone. She said the procedure used for removing a book in the district may need to be explored as well.