The Muscogee school district will be hearing from Shirley Waller.
Unlike on Wednesday, when it heard nothing from the mother of a Reese Road Elementary fourth-grader who found profanity in a school library book.
The district’s media committee met Wednesday to consider Waller’s complaint that the book used words students would be disciplined for speaking in school.
The media committee’s meeting had been postponed a week so Waller could attend. So she made sure to be there Wednesday at the old Bradley Library, where she intended to tell the eight-member committee of instruction and media specialists, plus a Reese Road PTA representative, why she objected to the book.
But she was never asked what she thought. If she wanted to address the committee, she was supposed to have signified that when she signed in at the door. “I didn’t know that I needed to do that, since I was invited to come to speak,” she said Thursday.
Doreen Sears, the curriculum specialist who ran the meeting, said the media committee used the same sign-in rules as the Muscogee County school board’s.
And we all know how the school board excels at resolving complaints.
To its credit, the media committee got done in an hour, even though it had to plod through 31 instructional standards to determine whether the book met them, and then vote on whether to remove the book, restrict access to it, move it to middle or high school libraries, or leave it as is. The committee decided on the latter.
To ban the book just because it has some profanity — mostly the word “damn” or some variation of that curse — would be to censor the entire work based on excerpts taken out of context.
So all the reporters and photographers who came to the meeting hoping to hear profanity wound up hearing it only in their own heads.
The outcome was never in doubt. The Revolutionary War novel “My Brother Sam is Dead” gets rave reviews from educators for its historical accuracy. Students like it, too, though in an online review, one noted that the title gives away a vital part of the plot.
“What happens to Sam?” will not be on the test.
There won’t be a test; the book is not required reading. Waller’s daughter checked it out on her own.Waller initially took the stance that the novel should be removed from all schools.
Now she has a different position, one that she’s starting a petition drive to push:
“After seeing the situation and how other parents felt, and how I felt from the very beginning, I don’t want to infringe on someone else’s right to let their children read these books, if they feel they’re great,” she said. “It would be so simple — at the beginning of the year, we fill out so many forms for kids — to fill out one and say, ‘Yes, my child has permission to read whatever they want,’ or, ‘No, only material that’s not been banned, or questioned, or has questionable things in it.’ That way we’re both protected, so I think that’s the way to go.”
So that’s the way she’s going to go. She’ll likely post a petition online, and pass it on to local churches, she said.
If she gets sufficient signatures to take her petition to the school district, then the school board will be hearing from her then — provided she indicates her desire to address the board when she signs in.