Commentary: Board, not superintendent, should decide if book deserves banning

This editorial appeared in The Modesto Bee.

Every year or two, we have a dust-up over a book that a parent finds offensive. The latest example is in Newman, where one mother's objection to "Bless Me, Ultima," a book assigned to sophomores in honors and Advanced Placement English classes, has resulted in the book being removed from the Orestimba High School reading list by the superintendent.

Superintendent Rick Fauss insists that he didn't really ban the book, because it is available in the school library. We would suggest that this matter needs to go to the school board for a final decision.

The Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District has a policy for handling this sort of complaint. The first step was followed – an alternative reading assignment was offered to the student. After that, the superintendent partially followed the policy for the review of challenged material, which is contributing to ill will in the district and the community.

The superintendent first sought the advice of a committee of four educators, two in the district and two from other school organizations. That panel recommended that the book "should not be removed from the OHS reading options. It supports a multicultural perspective and it is on seven different lists as a landmark piece and it is recommended for the college bound. Proper procedures for adoption were followed and alternative literature was offered."

This first committee suggested that parents receive an explanation for all required reading, including why the books were chosen, warnings about explicit or vulgar language or sexual content, and alternative reading for meeting the same objective. This was a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Modesto Bee.