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School board: Controversial books will stay

"A parent campaign is prompting the Federal Way school district to add a new English course at Thomas Jefferson High School and to give parents full disclosure about books read in the classes. The English curriculum for Jefferson students will change next year following concerns raised by parent Karla Dyer. She objected to requiring students to read books that contain scenes with child rape and other graphic scenarios. Dyer's media campaign spread from print, radio to TV last month. Her concerns began in December when her daughter, Hilary, then a Jefferson sophomore, objected to profane language in Catcher in the Rye. Dyer and her daughter targeted six required books, including The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye and Woman at Point Zero, because of explicit passages describing child rape, female genital mutilation and other sexual scenarios. During a Tuesday night public hearing on the issue, Dyer was flanked by more than a dozen supporters wearing florescent green stickers. Dyer told the Federal Way Public Schools Board of Education she didn't want the books censored. She said she just didn't want them to be required reading materials. Voting 4-1, the board authorized Jefferson to keep the books but also created an Advanced Placement English course for students who wish to read alternative, but equally challenging English literature. As long as the student passes the AP/IB curriculum standardized exam, he or she will be eligible for the full IB diploma. Before the change, Jefferson students who wanted to to earn the prestigious, full IB diplomas, had to pass each IB course. Dyer's daughter would not have been eligible for the diploma at graduation because she opted out of the English class. In an effort to better inform parents of educational materials taught in all high schools, the Federal Way school district also will send home course and text book descriptions. Board member Ann Murphy, who sided with Dyer, saying parents had a right to be upset over the material and petition the board. There is no book burning goingon here, Murphy said. It's the way these (things) are explicitly talked about. But former IB student Kirstin Jensen, now a sophomore at Pepperdine University, said she supports the books read in the program. The teachers didn't glorify the material, she said. The purpose was to get exposure to as much as we could. They tried to keep things balanced. However, Dyer told the board a high IQ doesn't necessarily mean a student is ready to handle the sexually charged book passages and themes. We have such a sexualized society, she said, citing exposure from mass media. Do they really need to get it from school? Their minds don't need it one more time. ... I'm really sorry this is the best they could come up with. One passage Dyer objected to was a graphic rape scene from The Color Purple. After describing the rape, the book says, When that hurt I cry. He start to choke me, saying 'you better shut up and git used to it.' While the board didn't choose to eliminate the books from the IB reading list, Dyer said she was happy her voice was heard. Board member Audrey Germanis said the plan was the most obvious compromise. Germanis read the books and found some of the language explicit. However, she didn't have a problem with the books, but respected the opinions of parents who might. I think it was fair conclusion, she said. We came up with a compromise to help her daughter's situation and not compromise the IB program. "

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