Since the East Allen County Schools Board of Trustees passed the mask-optional back-to-school plan at its July 20 meeting, for the first time in a while, this topic was not discussed at the Aug. 3 meeting.
But an issue about inappropriate books available to students in the district has been occurring, and one concerned parent brought her frustrations before the board for the second time.
At the July 20 meeting, EACS parent of two children attending Heritage Jr./Sr. High School Amy Frecker began this conversation. She started to read excerpts from books that are available to students to the Board, but the language was deemed too inappropriate, so School Board President Todd Buckmaster said he would appreciate if she did not use that language at the meeting.
Frecker countered Buckmaster’s request.
“I would appreciate my children not having access to these books,” Frecker said. “I learned how to smoke crank in one. I listened from the aspect of a 3-year-old describing her molestation. Which I am a child of molestation, so I can imagine.”
She was upset that books with this type of language and content help students accumulate accelerated reading (AR) points.
Frecker said rape was mentioned in multiple books as well.
She listed some of the books she read and how many accelerated reading points they earn once students read them. Some include “L8r G8r” by Lauren Myracle, and “The You I’ve Never Known,” “Crank,” “Glass” and “Fallout” all written by Ellen Hopkins.
According to Frecker, some of the topics in these books are sex work, strip clubs, rape, drugs and masturbation.
“I can’t even imagine what the questions are that come from reading those as an AR book,” Frecker said.
She feels these books desensitize children.
At the most recent meeting on Aug. 3, Board Vice President Tim Hines, who was running the meeting in Buckmaster’s absence, and EACS Superintendent Marilyn Hissong provided an update about this issue.
“Last meeting, the July 20 meeting, it was brought to our attention regarding some of the books and the language that was in the books,” Hines said. “I just want to let all of you know, and those people watching via Zoom too, that the reason for public expression is to bring a lot of those things to our attention. The things that were in those books was definitely news to us.”
He explained there is a process that addresses this type of issue when it arises. Hissong explained this EACS Administrative Guideline called Challenging Materials.
If a parent or guardian feels material is inappropriate, a form needs to be completed informing what their objections are. From there, a committee of parents and faculty is created. That committee reviews the materials, and a recommendation is made to either the assistant superintendent of secondary education or to the assistant superintendent of elementary education, depending on what school the book is in.
The assistant superintendent then makes a recommendation to the superintendent and it is brought before the Board of Trustees.
“That is the process, and we do intend to follow it,” Hissong said. “We’re making sure everybody that does bring up something has the forms that they need. We are happy to work with people and we want this to be a partnership between parents and the school.”
Frecker spoke at this latest board meeting as well. She appreciated the explanation from Hissong, but she still wasn’t completely satisfied.
“What I would like to know is how these books are filtrating into our schools,” Frecker said. “Is this through a government-funded program where you are getting a list and this is what you are required to put on the shelves to receive the funding? How is this happening?”
Frecker said that the author Ellen Hopkins reached out to her in “not a very kind way.” She did not elaborate, but she did say that as a parent of a child at a public school, she has the right to aid her children.
“It seems like I am picking on this author, but she is kind of an easy target because I know that the list that I gave you has been removed from the Destiny filing, so you can’t find it, but you can find eight additional Ellen Hopkins books on there,” Frecker said. “They are just as wretched. They are foul. I just don’t understand it. It’s other authors too. It’s not just her.”
The board and superintendent do not respond to comments made during public expression.
In other news, the board:
- Approved the purchase of Red Cat microphones and cabling for kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms in the amount of $7,755 for the cabling and $346,212 for the microphones, which will be paid through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds.
- Approved the purchase of Apple Ear Buds for all kindergarten through twelfth-grade students in the amount of $116,090, which will also be paid through ESSER funds.
- Discussed potential General Obligation Bond resolutions.