By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 27, 2022
North Carolina parents are continuing to push back against schools where their children have been exposed to, or even assigned, inappropriate reading materials.
Taylor Keith, whose child attends Ayden Middle School, took his concerns over three books to the Pitt County Board of Education, which on Monday voted to adopt a parent notification policy that will require schools to send a letter home listing books that will be used in the classroom.
Keith began speaking out in November about three books: Sharon M. Draper’s Forged by Fire and Darkness Before Dawn, both part of her Hazelwood High trilogy, and All American Boys, written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
Forged by Fire includes substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, pedophilia and profanity. Students reading Darkness Before Dawn will be introduced to themes of suicide and the attempted rape of a teenage girl by a high school coach. All American Boys deals with police brutality. It contains profanity, drug use and alcoholism.
When Keith complained, officials at Ayden insisted that the books were appropriate for middle school students’ maturity levels and would not be removed. Considering his appeal, some school board members agreed that materials needed to be more closely reviewed but refused to remove the books from the classroom.
“We really need to pay attention to what materials we use as instruction from the standpoint that society today is becoming so dark in so many ways,” said Benjie Forrest, who represents District 9. “We need at least to make sure that we’ve got instructional material as well that lifts up students and provides for their well being and hope and promise.”
Mason Paramore, an Ayden Middle School eighth-grader, was at the board meeting and told the media why he didn’t appreciate having to read the controversial books.
“I know that things like that go on in the world,” he said. “It’s not something I want to read about. I don’t want to read about a little girl getting raped and all the different things that are in those books.”
Pitt County Schools officials said parents can request alternate assignments for their children if they object to the content of assigned reading, and a middle grades language arts specialist showed the board a sample letter that teachers could use to inform parents about potentially sensitive topics coming up in assignments. But Keith told the media he had talked to multiple parents and neither he nor they had ever received any such notification.
“If that letter was sent out and it said this book said the F word 20 times in it, the book would have been appealed before it got read. The book about a pedophile raping his daughter would have been appealed before it got read,” Keith said.
The Pitt County controversy is the latest in a number of incidents across the state this school year involving the use of sexually explicit materials or books including themes that are age-inappropriate. Parents have fought, with mixed success, to protect their children from Gender Queer, Lawn Boy, and George.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with race, but there used to be a commercial back in the ’70s for the United Negro College Fund, which said: ‘A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.’ Perhaps we need a new commercial with another slogan that says, ‘A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Poison,’” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “When we expose young impressionable minds to materials that are morally filthy or beyond their emotional or intellectual maturity, we poison those minds. If we put garbage into them, we’ll get garbage out.”
Creech said it is not censorship to protect minors whose development is subject to what they are allowed to hear, see, and read – especially when their school allows or promotes it.
“Parents shouldn’t have to be concerned about this influence. They should be able to trust the schools implicitly,” he added. “The fact of the matter is they can’t. Get rid of the books, they can be poisonous to the mind.”