The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being challenged once again, this time at Sheehan High School in Wallingford, Connecticut, where it has been pulled from the freshman reading list as well as the school’s curriculum after complaints from a parent over the book’s more mature themes.
Late last year, Jean Pierre Bolat, parent and now a Board of Education member, filed a formal complaint petitioning to have the book removed from his son’s freshman class after having a conversation with his son regarding the book’s inclusion of themes such as homosexuality, masturbation, sex, and what he calls, a “glorification of alcohol use and drugs.” Bolat became concerned that not only was the book was being taught in classrooms but that the popular film adaptation was also being shown to students.
Upon reading the book, Bolat submitted his complaint to Sheehan Principal Rosemary Duthie, and the case went before a committee of teachers in January. The review committee decided to keep the book as part of the reading list, but Bolat appealed the decision. In February, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo decided to have the book removed from the curriculum; the book remains available for independent reading in the school library.
When asked about the decision, Bolat commented that it was “a testament to the leadership in [the] district… They realized that if something doesn’t smell good or feel good, it’s probably not the right thing.” He further commented, “I feel very strongly that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids about morality and immorality and values.”
Bolat seems to have little understanding that his actions are an attempt to censor the book and violate First Amendment principles. As reported by Eric Vo for MyRecordJournal.com:
“All the teachers were very far on the opinion that I was trying to ban a book and I tried to educate them that no, I’m an American and I don’t believe in censorship, but believe in appropriateness,” [Bolat] said. “This book is inappropriate for children.”
This isn’t the first time that Perks has been under fire. In 2013, CBLDF joined the National Coalition Against Censorship to defend the book from an attempted ban in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Through grassroots efforts, including a letter writing campaign and student activism, a ban on the book was overturned.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been widely praised for its candid treatment of teenagers, touching on topics such as suicide, sexual abuse, homosexuality, masturbation, and consumption of alcohol. These topics have also led to widespread challenges of the book, frequently putting it on ALA’s annual list of the most challenged and banned books. Undoubtedly some of the subject matter that the book deals needs to be accompanied by conversation and critical thought. Bolat is right that it should be a parent’s responsibility to be active in that conversation, but one parent cannot determine what is best for all students in a school. CBLDF will be watching this case closely.
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!