Texas School Board Stands Ground on Sixth Grade Required Reading

The school board in Argyle, Texas, is standing their ground regarding two required reading titles despite a small number of parents asserting that the books are not age-appropriate and tackle tough concepts best discussed at home.

The books in question, Andy Mulligan’s Trash and Francesco D’Adamo’s Iqbal, became the center of debate during Monday’s school board meeting open forum when six parents argued that the books were too graphic and contained content that they deemed inappropriate for sixth graders.

Both books, which are part of a cross-curriculum program, were chosen to be included in sixth grade lesson plans based on their literary merits—they have both been nominated for numerous awards—as well as the unique cultural perspectives that they bring to the classroom. Trash tells the story of a young Raphael, who become mixed up in police corruption in an unnamed third-world country, and Iqbal is based on the true story of Iqbal Masih, a 12 year-old Pakistani boy who helps free other children from a rug factory where they are forced to work to pay off their family’s debt.

In both cases, the pedigree of the authors and the works alone would warrant their inclusion in the middle school grade curriculum. That, and the fact that both books are advertised as suitable for children ages 11 and 12. “The readings go along with world cultures and social studies,” said Argyle ISD Superintendent Telena Wright. “One of our sixth-grade teachers taught one of the books for four years at another district.”

Despite the books’ accolades, though, parents raised concerns that they teach children about harsh truths that they would prefer to address in a home setting. Whether it be police corruption or standing up against child labor, parent Amy Fanning said books like these “can also send the message that bad things can happen when you stand up for something,” adding that she didn’t want her children “to think police were corrupt.”

The concerns of these parents, though, were taken into account by the district and alternative reading assignments were presented if the parents decided that Trash and Iqbal were inappropriate for their individual children.

Unlike other recent cases, like those in Chesterfield County, Virgina, and Pasco County, Florida, where schools responded to parental complaints by pulling the challenged books from reading lists and classrooms, Argyle school district stood up for the integrity of their curriculum and the rights of all students to have a well-rounded education. Through open discussion and an amicable alternative proposition, Trash and Iqbal continue to be included in the classroom. Superintendent Wright reminded the community that “if parents still aren’t satisfied, they can discuss an alternative assignment with their child’s teacher and principal.”

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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!