Sifted-out stories

Students share opinions on LISD’s decision to review all books in student book club selections

Some+books+available+for+students+to+read+in+VHS%27s+library

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Some books available for students to read in VHS’s library

Abby Lincks, Staff Reporter

The Community Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC) along with more than seventy parents, educators and additional campus representatives are currently in the process of reviewing all high school English Language Arts student choice book club selections. After a parent complained about book In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado in a LISD Board of Trustees meeting in November of last year, multiple other parents also issued complaints. These complaints referenced books containing explicit content present in student choice book club selections. In addition to the CCAC reviewing all book club selections, multiple books have been pulled from the curriculum as a whole. 

While this issue has been presented to many parents and staff members of the LISD district, students have not had such a platform. Integral to the LISD community is student opinions on an issue that is directly affecting them and the options they have for learning and discussing what some view as sensitive topics. 

“Yes, certain books are appropriate for certain age-groups, and filtering content that could negatively impact our students is necessary,” STUCO member Hillary Xu said. “But censoring books without considering the perspectives of students that actually read the book is wrong.”

Available on the list for the students choice book clubs, were books that contained many different perspectives, lifestyles, discussions and opinions that could appeal to different students who can relate to different subjects or just want to learn about said subjects and gain perspective from them.

“Throughout high school, I have read many books I discovered on the shelves of my English classrooms that have expanded my knowledge of BIPOC struggles, modern technology, foreign culture, etc. that I would have otherwise been unexposed to,” Anonymous STUCO member said.

Because the book In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado was complained about for containing highly descriptive and sexually suggestive text alongside sexual abuse and drugs, some parents and the LISD board deemed it best to remove this book from availability. 

“Students will face these themes and concepts outside of high school and it is irresponsible for the district to censor them when they should be encouraging students to learn from them,” STUCO member Kiyan Alrobaire said. 

These themes and concepts present in both these books and outside of high school have multiple parents preferring to be the ones to decide how and when their child is exposed to said topics.

“Many parents have different teaching styles and ways they want their kids to learn,” STUCO member Treasa Connors said. “Some want their kids to learn certain things through them and ask them about that topic, not through the school. So by taking books out that are explicit and/or aren’t appropriate according to the district will help minimize kids learning inappropriate things through school.”

An alternative solution to pulling books from the curriculum and clubs, many students suggested that the books be sent out with a permission slip that parents can read over and help decide whether or not they are comfortable with their child reading a certain book. 

“Rather than remove these books from schools entirely, labels should be placed on books regarding explicit content they contain to alert incognizant students who aim to avoid them,” an anonymous STUCO member said.

Books in these student led clubs are not mandatory to read therefore, any student who doesn’t wish to partake in discussions about themes and content in the book doesn’t have to. 

“If these books are not mandatory to read, I don’t understand why they should be taken out,” STUCO member Anya Gowda said. “We are high school students, we are mature, we deserve to read whatever material we want whether they contain explicit material or not.”

With students being the main audience affected by this reviewing process, some feel they should have a direct role in the decision making process.

“I feel that parent and faculty input is important, but the student is ultimately the one who is going to read the books,” STUCO member Emma Prilop said. “Student input should be valued if not more valued than that of parents and faculty in these decisions.”

In addition to student input, the input of English teachers, Assistant Principals and parents of all demographic backgrounds are the main sources of input students claimed that they wanted representing them and their own opinions.

“I don’t find it fair for students who are at a higher level of maturity, who have good judgement and want to broaden their knowledge, to be punished for simply being curious about real world judgement and issues,” STUCO member Prilop said. “Issues of which present themselves in many different platforms through everyday life.”

However, some pose the argument that by condoning such topics present in multiple books of the curriculum, the district is sending the message that they are promoting these actions and subjects.

“If the school is saying this is an OK book to read (In the Dream House) then they are showing kids that the topics discussed in the book are okay,” Connors said. “For example, because smoking and vaping has been shut down because it is harmful to the kids, people know that it is bad and will put a negative connotation with smoking and vaping. The board should be doing the same with this book.”

While the vast majority of students responded that they don’t particularly agree with the idea of pulling books from LISD district curriculums and student choice led clubs, other students agree with books being pulled if the district decides that this is best. Either way, all students agree that one of the vital sources that should be considered in this process are students themselves.

“I am a part of the CCAC, the committee reviewing these books, and as a student representative, we weren’t allowed to have a say in the books that they are reviewing,” STUCO member Kira Anderson said. “I found this frustrating because I believe that there should be students, at least a small group, reviewing these books and giving input on how they would affect actual students, rather than how adults think they would affect students.”

As adults are the primary source of decision making for this process, it’s important for students to still have a stance. Having a clear understanding and opinions regarding the specifics of the situation is vital in maintaining and respecting the opinions of all individuals involved.

“I think that students should make more of an effort to be a part of this process,” Anderson said. “Students should have a place of power among decisions because they are the future and they will decide what the future will become. If they are stripped of power in an attempt to protect them, they will lose a valuable part of growing up.”