Just in time for the Fourth of July: the Buncombe County School Board in North Carolina has definitively ended the challenge of one Asheville parent with a unanimous vote to keep The Kite Runner on their approved reading list today.

The challenge was launched in May by local Tea Partier Lisa Baldwin, whose son was in A.C. Reynolds High School’s sophomore honors English class. She asserted, among other things, that the book "inaccurately assigned Judeo-Christian characteristics to a Muslim god," but faced a wall of opposition in the school and among the community. Buncombe’s own policy states that material can only be removed "for legitimate educational reasons and subject to the limitations of the First Amendment," and emphasizes that professional educators are “in the best position to determine whether a particular instructional material is appropriate for the age and maturity of the students and for the subject matter being taught.”

In May, a school review committee found that the teacher who planned to teach the book did her due diligence and that the book "possesses sufficient literary, thematic, and aesthetic merits to warrant its inclusion," and that exposure to it "will better prepare students for subsequent academic success." A district-wide committee, brought together after Baldwin filed an appeal, agreed with that assessment in June, and sent this recommendation to the Board.

We couldn’t be happier with the result. Still, the issue brought to light some trouble lurking in an otherwise sound policy. The teacher was barred from teaching the book while the challenge was underway, and, though a number of students still chose to read it as part of an informal book club, they missed out on a rich educational experience that can only be had through guided class discussion.

As we noted in our June 29th letter to the Board:

A complainant should not be able to disrupt an entire classroom while the complaint is being considered or the material in question is being reviewed. Doing so compromises the rights of the students and the integrity of the system. The suspension of the book in this case, due to the unit’s proximity to the end of the school year, meant that it was effectively and permanently removed from the 2014-2015 A.C. Reynold’s High School’s English II Honors class.

In order to prevent this from happening again, we hope the Board considers amending this part of the policy. In the meantime, we hope that on this Fourth of July weekend, they, and the constituents they serve, are using today’s decision to celebrate the right to read.


You can read NCAC's letter below, or here for a full-screen view.

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