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Iowa town's school board approves use of gay-themed books

Iowa town's school board approves use of gay-themed books

The school board in Solon, Iowa, has voted to keep two books in an eighth-grade class over the objections of parents who said their contents promote homosexuality. Board members told parents opposed to the books that they could appeal the board's ruling to the state board of education. "If your goal out there is to take your personal views and instill them in your children and also force them on all children, then the road to the state school board is open to you in Des Moines," board member Ben Pardini said. Seven parents filed complaints last month over eighth-grade teacher Sue Protheroe's use of the books in her curriculum. The parents complained that the books have no educational value and address issues that should be discussed within families and not in middle school. The parents also complained that the books use racist terms, perpetuate gay stereotypes, and promote homosexuality. The books have been used for the past five years and were never previously challenged. Protheroe's class read "Am I Blue?" a fictional story by Bruce Coville that looks at a boy's confusion over his sexual identity. Her class also read "In the Time I Get," by Chris Crutcher, a story about a teenager who befriends a man dying of AIDS. Protheroe said her intentions are to promote tolerance, not teach about whether homosexuality is right or wrong. The district's reconsideration committee reviewed the stories and heard parents' concerns. After two meetings, the committee agreed that the material is age-appropriate and should stay in the curriculum. They also agreed it is "critically important" the district devise a method of parental notification. Parent Greg Boyd has said he would appeal the board's decision in Des Moines. The school district has policies for opting out of class sections for religious reasons. The district also has adopted additional policies for teaching a controversial issue. The new policies will be included in the 2004-2005 student handbook. A summary of the policies was given to teachers and published in the district's November newsletter.

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