Last month when a school review committee in Waukesha, Wisconsin unanimously rejected a challenge to John Green’s Looking for Alaska, the positive outcome was somewhat tempered by the news that two further books had been challenged in the same school district by another parent. But at its meeting this past Wednesday, the Waukesha district’s Consideration Committee also unanimously rebuffed the challenges to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Chris Crutcher’s Chinese Handcuffs, noting that individual students always have the option to choose an alternate book if they’re not comfortable with an assignment.
Karen Tessman, the mother of a Waukesha high school student, challenged both books on the grounds that they contain “extreme violence.” While The Kite Runner is part of the high school curriculum and was approved by the school board for that purpose in 2006, Chinese Handcuffs is not used in any class but only held in school library collections. Tessman said that students “don’t need this kind of violence brought into their lives” and expressed concern that the books would “desensitize” them to violence. But Mary Ann Krause, a 26-year English teacher at Waukesha North High School, said that was not the case at all. In regards to The Kite Runner, which is used in a course unit dealing with tradition and change of cultures, she reported that “this is one book that the students read carefully and maturely. Just the discussions are incredible that it develops and encourages.”
As with Looking for Alaska last month, Consideration Committee chair and Waukesha West principal David LaBorde again pointed out that students or parents are welcome to request an alternate reading assignment if they’re uncomfortable with The Kite Runner. Tessman said that her son, a sophomore, will do that when his class reads the book this year. Nevertheless, she also says she will appeal the Consideration Committee’s decision on both books to the school board. Since the parent who challenged Looking for Alaska has already done the same, we’re looking forward to an interesting meeting on September 10! Here’s hoping the board backs up the professional educators on the Consideration Committee who have handled all three challenges this summer with aplomb.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.