Graham Swift's Waterland, a book challenged by two Salem High School parents, will return to Plymouth-Canton classrooms, the district announced today.
A nine-member compaint review committee voted to recommend keeping the book in the AP English curriculum.
On Dec. 21, 2011, parents Matt and Barb Dame filed a complaint with the district about the use of the text in the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park's advanced placement English courses, citing the book's sexual content.
Superintendent Jeremy Hughes immediately pulled the book, but later decided to put the book through the district's review process.
The parents also challenged the use of Toni Morrison's Beloved, which was reviewed in January by a separate committee that voted to keep the novel in classrooms. While Beloved stayed in classrooms while it underwent review, Waterland remained pulled until a committee recommendation was made.
The Waterland committee met Feb. 8 to hear arguments by both the Dames and park teachers Brian Read and Gretchen Miller. A follow-up meeting, closed to the public, took place Feb. 13 to allow the committee to deliberate, the district's statement said. After the second meeting, the committee members voted to keep the book. The individuals' votes remained anonymous and the tally of votes for and against keeping the books was not made public.
Hughes has said that, much like the Beloved review, he would follow the recommendation of the committee.
Community responds to decision
The challenge and review process drew heavy local and regional interest — as well as national media exposure — and led to several parent and community groups forming to represent both sides of the issue.
Supporters of Academic Integrity, a community group in support of keeping the books in classrooms, said in a statement that while its members were happy with the committee's decision, there still is work to do.
"It is now incumbent (upon) Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Hughes to make this book available immediately to AP English students so that they may have the opportunity that was taken away from them to finish reading this critically acclaimed novel if they so choose," the group said in a statement.
"It is also imperative that steps be taken to ensure that one set of parents, no matter how well intentioned they may be, will never again be able to create the confusion, controversy, and discord that this unfortunate series of events has caused students, parents, and the community," the statement read.
Tim Roraback, a Supporters of Academic Integrity member, said the decision was "really great news" and shows that district parents can trust Plymouth-Canton teachers.
"I think this second decision, two out of two books, really gives a lot more evidence to that effect that our teachers can be trusted," Roraback said. "They’ve always gotten great results."
Matt Dame acknowledged today's decision on his website, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools & Common Sense, but did not offer an opinion on the book's reinstatement. Before today's decision, he wrote on his site that he hopes the challenge will create better lines of communication between the district and parents.
"The district is failing in its duty to make sure that parents are informed of the subject matter being presented to our students," he wrote. "Parents have a right to be accurately informed by teachers if teachers intend to introduce materials that some parents might define as pornographic."
The Dames have not yet responded to interview requests.