Iowa school district bans reading of gay book
December 08 2004 1:00 AM ET
The Misfits, a book with a gay character, can remain in Pleasant Valley, Iowa, elementary schools, but teachers may not read it aloud in class. That was the result of a 4-3 vote by the Pleasant Valley school board on Monday night. "I'm really disappointed with the outcome," said teacher Linda Goetz, who read the book to her sixth-grade students at Bridgeview Elementary in LeClaire for two years in an effort to curb name-calling. "I don't think any board should take away the right of a teacher to read a book to students."
The request from a parent to reconsider the use of the book prompted the board decision, which was made before a packed board room of about 150 people. District teachers, parents, and students went to microphones to address the board. Parent Jim Nitzschke said the school district has an excellent procedure in place in dealing with bullies, one that his family has gone through. He presented the board with a petition signed by 186 people asking the use of the book be restricted, and he urged the board to leave the decisions of sensitive moral issues for the home. Nitzschke said if sexual orientation is part of the curriculum, then the Bible and Ten Commandments should be read aloud too. "This question is of a religious nature and a deeply personal matter," he said. He said the gay movement has an aggressive agenda to indoctrinate children.
A committee was appointed to evaluate the parental request and held an open forum in November. It recommended the board allow the book to be placed in school libraries and that teachers be allowed to read the book aloud to students. If a student or a parent objected to the content of the book, that
student should be given a substitute activity, the committee said.
On Monday night four members of the board voted to restrict the book by James Howe, while three voted in favor of the committee's recommendation. Board members said they received several e-mails, phone calls, and letters about the book. "There's a lot of power in words, and that's why name-calling hurts," board member Joanne Messman said. But, she said, she still was concerned with having the book read aloud to students.
Board member Tana Barsness, who served on the reconsideration committee, said her biggest concern is what will happen with other books. She questioned whether the board stepped beyond the scope of its authority and whether the board will now have to review every book at every level. She also was concerned about the message the board's decision sent to the eight-member committee that examined the request.