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'Waterland' to Stay in Plymouth-Canton's AP English Curriculum

Committee recommends returning challenged book to AP English classrooms.

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.

Maddiex February 24, 2012 at 04:36 PM
It annoys me that you can consider a person "shielded" and "unprepared for life" just because they don't want to read these two books. The student who's parent complained was offended by the material. She pointed it out to her parents. She sounds like she is "shielding" herself. Reading mature sexual content does not necessarily make you intelligent. Somehow people made it through life before these two books were written. They may be good books, but people are able to actually live and survive without reading them. I'll bet you this student will make it through her first day of college just fine, better in fact, because it's obvious she is the type of person who stands up for what she believes in, even if it means that she is shunned and ridiculed for it. And that ridicule comes not only from other students, but from adults as well. Everyone knows who the student is, yet adults can stand at the podium saying she is "immature" and "unprepared" and "sheltered" just because she objected to the some of the content and imagery of those two books. The book shouldn't have been pulled out at the point that is was, and the class curriculum shouldn't have been disturbed, but I will bet this class will go on to be just fine. No one has ever been prevented from reading these books, by the way. Never. It's still in the school library, the city's libraries, and the bookstore.
Jerry Grady February 24, 2012 at 08:29 PM
If this is true and she/he wanted out of the class and did not want to read the book, ( i don't know the person so sorry but i only know the story), why did she just not remove himself/herself from the class. Intriguing question that I have been asking for months. Hard to tell someone it was the Person who wanted out, yet her parents had to go and do what they did. I know for A FACT, he/she could have gone to the teacher and asked to be removed or asked not to read that book. And it is a Fact, because parents have done just that. It was part of the curriculum so if he/she didn't like it, then deal with it in the school and with the teacher and principal. Hence why your facts are hard for me to agree with. Schools will always find accommodation for the student when presented in a rationale and realistic way. They new the curriculum, they choose to stay in the class, and then when it went against their morality, we put the district thru a nightmare.
Maddiex February 24, 2012 at 09:07 PM
The way the story goes, the student was reading the first book, and when she reached the excerpt in question, brought it to the attention of her parents. When the teacher was contacted, the student was offered the option of leaving the classroom and sitting in the school library while the rest of the class discussed the book. Not only is the student missing the class time, but she has to get up and leave the class everyday in front of the other students. I think the better solution is to keep the classroom discussion on books that everyone can agree on, and leave the mature subject book to a recommended reading list, with a full explanation of content to the parents and students.
Jerry Grady February 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
So hurt the other kids who had no problem with it and they suffer, I don't see how that is fair to the other children in the class, nor the community at large. They should have just had her drop the class because that is what they do with many AP class's that children don't fit in or don't like. My main reason - they new the curriculum before school started, and many parents had done their homework to see what their child was going to be doing. I know I do every year when my children start the new year, I get informed and understand what my child will be doing. If i am not sure of what they are reading, I use this great tool called Google, and get myself informed. Unfortunately you and I will not agree on how it should have been handled, but it was decided thru the proper process and we move on. I don't agree with your hurting all the other students for one, but appreciate your feedback and giving me some more understanding.
Maddiex February 27, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The mother mentioned at one meeting that dropping the class was not an option offered to them. I don't know how much of a description they get, but I suppose they could have used Google or Amazon to read reviews on every book, but I can't say that the reviews would have pointed out these parts of the books, because these are adult books, not children's books, which is the main issue here. And lastly, I still can't see how any of this caused "hurt" or "suffering". I would venture to say that every student who wanted to, finished reading both of those books in their entirety. I appreciate your input as well, but your description of the effect this caused is a tad too dramatic for me. Life goes on.

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