Dallas School Officials Ban, Reinstate Seven Protested Titles

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain remains formally challenged, subject to review

In mid-September, just prior to the start of Banned Books Week, the Highland Park Independent School District in Dallas, Texas, suspended seven books from its 200-title high school reading list, citing hundreds of parental complaints about adult content, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Soon after, a group of parents came together to protest the decision and to highlight the district’s violation of its own policy to allow challenged books to remain available while being reviewed. More than 2,000 people signed an online petition to have the books reinstated, and the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) worked with members of the community in support of reinstatement.

On Sunday, September 28, Superintendent Dawson Orr announced a reversal of the decision to suspend the books. “I made the decision in an attempt to de-escalate the conflict, and I readily admit that it had the opposite effect,” he said. “I take full responsibility for the decision, and I apologize for the disruption it has caused... All the titles that were temporarily suspended will be restored to the approved reading list,” and he assured parents that challenged books would not be removed from the classroom in the future without a formal review process.

Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, which was being read by students in the 10th grade English classes, was among the suspended books, protested for a sex scene. It remains formally challenged and will be subject to review by a committee of teachers, parents, and students.

“It’s baffling to me that my book would be removed from a 10th grade classroom,” said Stein. “I think kids that age are ready to discuss the topics in my book, and I think the larger themes — those of self-reliance, responsibility, and perseverance — are far more valuable for young readers than the suggestion of a sex scandal is detrimental. While I do respect that different communities have different standards, I think a protocol for addressing parental concerns should be established and followed.”

KRRP’s Mayukh Sen said the organization was “closely monitoring how the situation unfolds as the complaint and review process commences” for Stein’s book and that it would be sending a letter to the Highland Park ISD in advance of its October 14 meeting.

The other suspended titles were The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler; Siddhartha by Herman Hesse; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison; and The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls, who is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at Highland Park school district’s annual literary festival.