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Updated: Committee Votes to Keep 'Beloved' in Plymouth-Canton Classrooms

Challenged book to remain in AP English Literature classrooms.

A committee assembled by Plymouth-Canton Community Schools administrators voted Friday to keep Toni Morrison's Beloved in AP English Literature classrooms.

The decision comes after a two-week review process after parents Matt and Barb Dame , because of what they characterized as inappropriate sexual themes and violence.

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes pulled Waterland from the AP English classrooms, but later said it would receive its own review. At that time, Beloved also was being challenged, so it .

Both the Dames and teachers Brian Read and Gretchen Miller presented their cases Jan. 11 to the committee, which included teachers, librarians, administrators, parents and one college instructor. The committee members' votes were anonymous, according to a statement from the district.

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes had said he would support the committee's recommendation.

The debate over the book had escalated during the past week, in the process. Parent groups on both sides of the issues, the , or P-CAP, and Supporters of Academic Integrity in Plymouth-Canton, formed to mobilize support for and against removing the book, respectively.

A message was left with the Dames on Friday afternoon seeking comment after the committee's decision was released to the public and media.

John Nichols, a parent in the district, said he agreed with the committee's vote.

"I think it was a very wise decision," he said. "I hope that our school district does not get watered down and take away from more important things in the future."

In an email, Supporters of Academic Integrity in Plymouth-Canton, a parents group opposed to removing books from classrooms, said it commends the review committee on its decision.

"We strongly agree with this decision and the support it gives to our teachers and their right to determine what materials to use in their classes without interference."

The district issued the following statement this afternoon:

Per the vote of the nine member Complaint Review Committee, it is recommended that Beloved, a novel by Toni Morrison, remain in the AP English curriculum.

On December 20, 2011, parents Matt and Barbara Dame filed an official complaint (via form 9130 F2) related to the use of Beloved in the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Advanced Placement English course.

Per the administrative guidelines for Board policy 9130, a Complaint Review Committee was convened to develop a recommendation to determine if Beloved should be removed from the AP English curriculum.

The committee met on January 11, 2012 to hear oral presentations from the complainant (Mr. & Mrs. Dame) and respondents (Brian Read & Gretchen Miller).  After the oral presentations, the committee deliberated.  The committee met again on January 17 to further deliberate.  The committee concluded these deliberations and voted anonymously.

The committee used the following criteria in their evaluation of the novel:

  1. the appropriateness of the material for the age and maturity level of the students with whom it is being used
  2. the accuracy of the material
  3. the objectivity of the material
  4. the necessity of using the material in light of the curriculum

Because P-CCS Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Hughes previously stated that he would honor the recommendation of the committee, Beloved will thus continue to be used as a resource in the P-CEP AP English course.

The Supporters of Academic Integrity in Plymouth-Canton released this statement today:

We, the Supporters of Academic Integrity in Plymouth-Canton, commend the review committee for their conscientious work in approving Beloved for the Advanced Placement English course at the
Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (the Park). We strongly agree with this decision and the support it gives to our teachers and their right to determine what materials to use in their classes without interference. The committee’s decision ensures this course will maintain the academic rigor that has allowed students at the Park to score well-above average on the Advanced Placement English exam for many years. We look forward to working with the superintendent and the school board to also have Waterland reinstated as quickly as possible while cooperatively discussing a path forward to prevent
these types of disruptions in the future.

Stay tuned with Patch as we follow this issue.

Editor's note: The name of Gretchen Miller has been corrected. It was stated incorrectly in an earlier version of this story. We apologize for the error.

Possum January 23, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Also, anyone that disagrees with my echo chamber life is uneducated.
Joe Miller January 23, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Ummm, so you would rather have your kids learn the Bible? If so, please send them to a Christian school. Vouchers are not used to give parents who don't like how a school is teaching. Vouchers are used only if there isn't enough room. You do realize that books do not make kids have sex on floors, your kid's peers do. And I'm willing to bet, that your kids have been exposed to similar things on the internet. Anyone who is wiling to believe that everything is a liberal take over is also uneducated. If you are a conservative, you should also realize that FREEDOM OF PRESS is a protected constitutional value. Tea Partiers rally for a return to the constitutional value, well allowing these books is a constitutional right. Now what you advocate: banning sex in books, is a CHRISTIAN value that is NOT PROTECTED BY THE CONSTITUTION as schools are NOT allowed to make curriculum based off of religious values.
Dorian McGlannan January 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Joe - Banning sex in books is not a value of all Christians. It is a concern that extremists have. Many of the world's religions have extreme factions. Christianity is no exception. Sad to say, they are the ones who get all the press. Please do not put all Christians in one group. That is a big mistake.
Prashant January 23, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I am glad my daughter is in this school district. From all I have heard in the past year, it seems like the complaining parents and dissenters were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and the process was followed. I can afford to send my daughter to a private school but I think it's wonderful that this free school system is where she has formed abiding friendships with a diverse group of friends, I see it in her smiles and her passion for justice and truth. I think Beloved is a wonderful book and qualifies as very good literature. I speak from the perspective of someone who has read widely and run Shakespeare and Epic Poetry read Aloud Groups including high schoolers and enjoyed the thoughful discussions that grappled with the wonders of our lives: love, firendship, sex and yes brutality and violence. My daughter is not having sex on the dance floor but discussing with us how she can earn a living while contributing to society while also nurturing that side of her that yearns for companionship and friendship. And we try to teach her that engaging with great literature with an open mind helps one to look past labels that necessarily constrict discussions: "Christian", "Taliban', "liberals", "disgusting". I love this school district.
Richard Simpkins April 12, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Okay, I've give you the violence part, but sex? Sure, some characters do inappropriate things in there, but when is it explicitly described?

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