1 challenged book stays; other in flux after Prosser School Board meeting

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 7, 2013 

PROSSER -- One book challenged by a social studies teacher will remain in school libraries, but the fate of another is not yet entirely decided.

The Prosser School Board deadlocked on a vote to remove The Popularity Papers from some of its school libraries Tuesday night. That means a recommendation approved by Superintendent Ray Tolcacher to keep the book remains in place.

But board members did not support Tolcacher's recommendation to keep Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It on book shelves. The board tabled further discussion of what to do with the book when they were unable to reach a consensus.

Rich Korb, a Prosser High School teacher, filed challenges to the books this winter. 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.

The books are not required reading and only available to certain grade levels. 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.

Korb said the books contain poor writing that doesn't serve an educational purpose, but he also has criticized their content. Pelzer's book is too graphic for students, he said, while Ignatow's promotes a political agenda.

While he called to remove the books in his initial challenge, Korb said the board should at least move the books to the high school level, where students are mentally and emotionally capable of handling the subject matter.

Tolcacher said Pelzer's book has graphic passages, but it is up to parents to review what their children read and restrict them if necessary.

He said Ignatow's book addresses issues common to middle school students and doesn't force any views on readers.

Board members Jermey Tuttle and Win Taylor said they didn't see any value in keeping either book in the library as it didn't serve the best interests of the community and students, and doesn't enhance curriculum.

"My recommendation? Put them on the surplus list and get rid of them and let's not do this again," Taylor said.

But board member Gayle Wheeler and Chairman Tim Rankin were against removing Ignatow's book.

"I don't think it promoted a particular agenda," Rankin said.

Wheeler also supported keeping Pelzer's book in the libraries. Rankin was hesitant about keeping that book but said he was surprised at the support he heard for the book from parents.

It was not stated when the board will resume discussion of A Child Called It.

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