Prosser teacher challenges 2 books

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 5, 2013 

PROSSER -- A book with graphic depiction of child abuse and another portraying a family with two fathers is getting push-back from a Prosser High School teacher.

The Prosser School District's Instructional Materials Committee will review Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It today, followed by Amy Ignatow's The Popularity Papers on Thursday after Rich Korb, a social studies teacher, filed complaints against their presence in three school libraries.

The books are not required reading and are only available to certain grade levels. Pelzer's book requires parental permission to check out. However, Korb said the books have no place in the schools.

"We're supposed to protect children from these types of agendas," he told the Herald.

A Child Called It is an autobiography of Pelzer's childhood abuse at the hands of his alcoholic mother. The Popularity Papers is the fourth book in a series written by Ignatow about two girls, one who has two fathers, seeking the secret to being popular in middle school that also describes the two main characters' lives at home and school.

Korb said he learned of Pelzer's book when a school librarian sent out an email asking for feedback on it after hearing complaints from parents.

"I took it home and read it and was appalled," he said.

He subsequently learned about The Popularity Papers, which he said pushes a political agenda children don't need to hear. Korb said he met with the district librarian and Superintendent Ray Tolcacher about the books.

Korb said the books need to be removed. He also said he spoke with Pelzer's representative who said the book was not meant for young children.

"These are not enriching materials for these kids," he said.

Mary Snitily, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the books were added to three school libraries by the district librarian. A Child Called It is available at Housel Middle School, but only to seventh- and eighth-graders who have parental permission to read it. The Popularity Papers is available for checkout at two elementary schools, but only for fifth-graders.

She said Korb's complaint against the book is in the early stages. The Instructional Materials Committee, made up of administrators, teachers, a parent and a secondary-level student, will make a recommendation to Tolcacher on whether to keep or remove the books.

If there's any disagreement with Tolcacher's decision, the matter can be appealed to the school board.

She said this is the first attempt to remove a book from the school libraries she's seen in her eight years with the district.

"I think the process is working well," Snitily said.

The meetings today and Thursday are open to the public, but there will not be public comment. Korb and the district's librarian have been invited to speak about the books before the committee makes its recommendation.

This isn't the first time Pelzer's book has faced criticism from Mid-Columbia parents.

The Richland School Board a year ago temporarily tabled accepting a recommendation to approve the book, though with reservations from some reviewers. Richland board members eventually approved it for use in schools.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service