Parents of high school students in Midland, Michigan have opted to pass around a petition requesting the school ban Alexie Sherman’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, despite administrators clear instructions that they will only respond to a written request for further action.
The YA novel about a teenage boy’s experiences growing up on a reservation, won a National Book Award when it was published over a decade ago, and underwent a two-step vetting process before Midland public schools added it to the curriculum in 2016. Still, some parents feel that isn’t enough. Complaints from one parent, Jeff DeHaven, were focused on his concern that his two daughters would be exposed to inappropriate language and sexual references in the book. News reports did not mention which, if either, of his daughters were assigned the text in school.
When school administrators responded that any student not interested in reading the book could opt for an alternative assignment, DeHaven suggested that the experience of opting out of the assignment was discriminative.
“If you did [opt out], you have to go down to the library and kind of be excluded from the class. Which is more devastating, I feel for the student. So, I’m glad there’s an option out, but I don’t know if that’s the right approach for this,” DeHaven said.
Midland High School Administration has been exceptionally transparent throughout this whole process, releasing a copy of their official policy for instructional material challenges, and literally highlighting where the concerned citizens are in the process. It is clear that the next step, if they are truly interested in challenging this book, is a formal written complaint, not a petition. If no one files a “Citizen’s Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Material” with the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment within two weeks of the principal discussing the recommendation of the review committee with the citizens who are complaining, then the matter will be considered closed for discussion.
Despite numerous awards and critical acclaim since the books publication in 2007, Alexie Sherman’s seminal work has made frequent appearances on ALA’s Most Challenged annual list. In that time, CBLDF has defended The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from copious challenges, and will gladly continue to do so.
Below is the full response released by Midland public school administration.