Challenged book will remain in district librariesIndependent School District 196 will not remove a series of graphic novels at least one parent found objectionable.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Independent School District 196 will not remove a series of graphic novels at least one parent found objectionable.
A District 196 reconsideration review committee voted 10-1 April 27 to keep the Bone series of books in the district’s elementary school libraries. There is at least one Bone book in 12 of the district’s 18 elementary schools, including Rosemount Elementary.
The review committee met for about an hour to discuss the book, and district teaching and learning director Steve Troen said there was a lively conversation. Committee members talked about the quality of the graphic novel and about its appeal to certain students.
Rosemount Elementary School teacher Angela Grace, who has participated in the district’s last two reconsideration request hearings, said the discussion was valuable.
“People were really involved in looking at it from multiple perspectives,” Grace said.
Ramona Delay, the Apple Valley parent whose request prompted last week’s meeting, isn’t so sure. She said one of the media specialists on the committee taught a class the morning of the hearing and told students that what Delay was doing was “not right.” Delay just happened to have nieces in the class. She said she felt like committee members had decided before she even started making her case.
“I think the majority of the ladies who sat on the committee already had their mind made up,” Delay said. “They did not discuss any of the points I brought up in my argument. They may have heard what I said, but they did not listen.”
In her request to the district Delay objected to depictions of smoking, drinking, gambling and “sexual situations” in the long-running series. She pointed to scenes set in a tavern, and to a gambling character who fixes races.
“Although it is a graphic novel that appeals to all ages, if looked at closer the content and graphics used are not appropriate for younger aged children,” Delay said in her initial request for reconsideration. Parts of the Bone series have been reprinted in Disney magazines, but Delay said some objectionable content was removed.
Troen, who served as a facilitator for the discussion but did not have a vote, said the committee discussed those points. He said while some scenes are set in a tavern the main characters never have a drink themselves.
One member of the reconsideration committee said she showed the book to her own daughter, who saw the tavern as a restaurant. Grace said she saw instances of undesirable behavior as an opportunity for teachers or parents to talk to students about what behavior is appropriate.
Grace said she saw value in having the book in elementary libraries.
“It appeals to a wide range of readers,” Grace said. “Because it’s a visual book, it can appeal to those beginning readers who are relying more on pictures to understand. Then the text can be very complicated and the characters can be very complicated on multiple levels.... That’s very unusual for a book.”
Speaking in support of the books, Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts and Science media specialist Melinda Martin reviewed the criteria for selecting materials and stressed the importance of having a variety of books to match the interests of all students.
Delay said she’s been criticized frequently since she filed her request, and has been accused of censorship. Her complaint circulated widely in the comic book community and even drew a response from Jeff Smith, the series’ creator. According to web page Comic Book Resources Smith, responding to a question at a panel discussion, expressed disappointment with the request.
“Not everybody has to like my stuff. That’s fine. But I really can’t go along with this un-American concept of banning books,” Smith said.
Smith also wrote a letter that was read at the hearing.
Delay said she was not calling for the books to be removed from district libraries altogether, but she thought the material might be better suited for a middle school or high school audience.
Despite her frustrations, Delay said she was happy she went through the reconsideration process. She said she was happy to get parents and teachers thinking a little bit more about what their students are reading.
“In that sense, I do think it’s a win,” Delay said. “I know there’s a lot of criticism out there about my decision to go forward with this procedure, but I feel it was very positive.”