School District Keeps Explicit Book in School, Parents Outraged

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by Anita Carey  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 24, 2017   

"This is like handing my son an R-rated movie with sexual detail and saying it's okay because the historical aspect is good"

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PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Concerned parents are pleading with a Wisconsin school district to yank a sexually explicit book for teens. The principal is refusing.

Concerned over sexually explicit descriptions, coarse language and anti-Christian messages, parents of children in the Sauk Prairie school district are pleading with the school to remove Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from the required reading list for incoming freshmen.

In an email to Church Militant, Laura Breunig, a concerned member of the community, describes how another parent, Lisa Enerson, was treated after complaining to the school's principal, Chad Harnisch.


Enerson, complaining about the "vulgar" book — which includes masturbation, homosexuality, eating disorders, crime and violence, all of which are presented as normal in the book — requested that it be banned. Harnisch refused, threatening Enerson that if she approached the school board, "she would be made a laughing stock as the opposition would show up in force with the media and she would lose publicly."

When Enerson told Harnisch she would pray for him, he replied, "I'd expect you people like you to say something like that to me."

Image

Exerpt from The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part-Time Indian

(Warning: graphic content)

The situation is so serious that even the parish priest wrote a letter to the parish in support of the ban.

During the school board meetings, Breunig claims the librarian and middle school English teacher were not entirely honest about the fact that the seventh graders would be getting a copy of the book. While parents were discussing whether the book was appropriate for ninth graders, the seventh-grade English teacher was giving her students access to the book.

Enerson also says there is a climate of fear and intimidation in the school:

There were three to four public school employees and quite a few community members that contacted me confidentially to show support but would not publicly make a statement, be on my panel, write letters to [school board] or make phone calls for fear of repercussions as listed: loss of job, fear of offending others they work with, being mistreated at school, their children being [affected] in the school (in terms of grades and on the sports field). etc.

In one incident, a teacher at the school publicly praised a child for speaking in defense of the book in front of the student who opted out of the lesson. Both Enerson and Breunig have been shunned at the school and in the community for their efforts.

To refute parents and offset negative publicity, Harnisch and Lynn Frick, the English teacher who chose the book, made a short video explaining their rationale for including The Diary in the curriculum. Frick says it is an "exercise in empathy."

Although she admits the book contains alcohol use, violence and poverty, she claims "it is not a how-to manual." Harnisch concludes the video with the claim, "We would argue the text itself is primarily one of hope and resilience and gives a positive message of the power of education in a person's life."

During the recent school board meeting, the superintendent of the schools, Cliff Thompson, has given parents two options: One is to use the district's written appeals process to challenge the superintendent's recommendation, and the second is opting out of the lesson.
For the student who did opt out of reading The Diary, the alternate book was anti-Catholic in nature. Titled I Love You, Miss Huddleston, and Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood, Enerson calls it "a book that slammed the Catholic Church." No instruction was given to the student who opted out.
We know we are being tested, and we are determined to show God whose side we are on!
As to the contents of the book lesson for The Diary, Breunig told Church Militant:
[T]here was no discussion with any student. They were told to take the book home over Christmas/winter break, and there would be an essay test once class resumed. The essay was on why the student thought the book should or should not be banned, and they were required to list specific references from the book to support their argument.
The Alexie novel has been one of the most challenged or banned books since 2010, topping the list in 2014. Objectivereader.com's review cites 40 instances of profanity as well as references to alcohol consumption "too numerous to mention." At one point in the book, four pages are devoted to the character's anger at God and how the main character "draws cartoons making fun of Jesus and saying that he wants to kill God."
A reviewer from Commonsense media posted, "Then I got to the masturbation discussion that went on for over a page. Flipping through it, I found a variety of sexually related musings. This is like handing my son an R-rated movie with sexual detail and saying it's okay because the historical aspect is good."
As of now, parents have not begun the written process to challenge the school board's decision. "I want to show you that this is a bigger issue than just a book," Breunig tells Church Militant. "We know we are being tested, and we are determined to show God whose side we are on!"
Breunig explained, "This fight is far from over and has become more than a discussion of whether a book full of pornographic material and imagery should be pulled from the classrooms of our children. It has become a fight about faith. A fight for and about the truth. His Truth."

 

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