FCHS book review committee makes first decision on challenged titles

By Heather Michon

Fluvanna County High School’s Learning Resources Review Committee (LRRC) agreed to retain the first three of more than a dozen books being assessed for alleged inappropriate content at its meeting Wednesday evening (March 28).

Books currently under review by the LRRC. The committee hopes to evaluate three titles per month.

Books that will remain in the FCHS Library collection:

All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson

Tricks – Ellen Hopkins

The You I’ve Never Known – Ellen Hopkins

Books still awaiting review:

All the Things We Do In the Dark – Saundra Mitchell

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

Damsel – Elena K. Arnold

Dime – E.R. Frank

Looking for Alaska – John Green

Me Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera

The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed

Out of Darkness – Ashley Hope Perez

Shine – Lauren Myracle

Sold – Patricia McCormick

Something Like Normal – Trish Doller

What Girls Are Made Of – Elena K Arnold

The You I’ve Never Known and Tricks by Ellen Hopkins and George F. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue will remain on the library shelves at FCHS.

Committee members agreed that, despite some sexually explicit passages and graphic language, all three books were of high literary quality and handled mature content appropriately.    

Appropriate material

The committee had previously asked chairperson Gemma Soares to contact the counseling staff to define what constituted age-appropriate material for high school students from the perspective of emotional development. 

District Mental Health Coordinator Kaitlyn Harlow-Burner and counselor Haden Parrish submitted a three-page letter ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

While acknowledging that parents have a role in deciding what is appropriate for their own children to read, Harlow-Burner and Parrish argued that, in general, “accessing a diverse selection of texts allows our students to build self-confidence, empathy, and critical thinking skills.”

They noted that issues regarding sexual and gender identity, drug use, race, social isolation, and abuse are some of the important themes that teens may need to explore as they develop into adults.

One committee member said she had talked to her teens, and both had said they and their peers talk about these challenges as a matter of course. She added that children she knew in the foster care system often had real-life experiences with the tough topics portrayed in the challenged books. 

FCHS Principal Margo Bruce said while reading her first assigned book, “I could close my eyes and I could put a name to each character because that is what I live every day when I’m working with these children.”

More to do

The committee still has another dozen books to read and review.

Former School Board candidate Brittany Gray submitted the original list of 24 books in November. After some discussion, the LRRC cut that down to 16 books in January and pulled another two titles in February because Gray wasn’t clear on what material she was challenging.

Soares said she contacted Gray after the February meeting and got clarification on one of the two books. 

With that, Shine, by Lauren Myracle went back on the to-read list.

At least one member noted that their task would be easier if they were dealing with legitimate complaints from parents “rather than a political movement happening across our Commonwealth.”

The committee is already discussing recommendations to the School Board on how to prevent mass challenges in the future, including capping the number of books any complaint can submit at one time. 

The next meeting is scheduled for April 18 at 5 p.m. Books under review will be ‘Looking for Alaska,’ ‘Sold,’ and ‘Damsel.’

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