Good news: After weeks of controversy, Stephen Chbosky’s celebrated young adult novel The Perks of Being A Wallflower has been reinstated in the high school English curriculum in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Last month, news surfaced about a Wallingford parent filing a formal objection over the book’s inclusion in freshman English courses. As per district policy, his complaint was evaluated by a review committee, which decided to keep the book. But then Superintendent Salvatore Menzo overruled that decision, citing some confusion among teachers over how the book was to be used (a claim that, as Eric Vo of the Meridian Record-Journal reported, was challenged by the teachers themselves). Menzo even at one point argued that the book was not challenging enough for high school readers.
But one parent, Holly Lafond, decided to challenge the superintendent’s move. She met with the very same committee today, and they decided to reinstate the book— essentially reinforcing their previous decision.
As Lafond explained, the decision to remove a book instead of offering an alternative assignment to the offended parent was troubling. That parent, Jean-Pierre Bolat–who has since become a member of the school board–“took my daughter’s choice away; she didn’t have the opportunity to read the book… She didn’t have the opportunity to read it or the choice to not read it because it was taken out of the curriculum all together.”
As NCAC stated in its letter to Menzo and the Wallingford school board, the decision to remove the book absent any educational rationale was “both educationally and legally suspect,” and it flew in the face of the district’s own guidelines:
While the Board of Education upholds the right of all parents to assess and evaluate their own children’s educational materials, it will resist any attempt to censor materials used by others.
Requests for reconsideration of instructional materials shall be carefully investigated, but it must be recognized that the ultimate responsibility for selection of educational materials rests with school authorities.
This is not the end of the story, though. While Perks is back, this summer a curriculum review committee will be taking a broad look at what is being taught in the district. Stay tuned.