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Friday, December 8, 2023
Dec. 8, 2023

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Book ignites controversy at Oregon board meeting

The Columbian

MURPHY, Ore. — The story of a young woman growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution ignited controversy at an Oregon school board meeting.

Some parents complained Tuesday night that students should not be allowed to read the book “Persepolis” without parental approval. The novel by Marjane Satrapi contains coarse language and scenes of torture, and it’s in high school libraries within the Three Rivers School District in southwest Oregon.

The Grants Pass Daily Courier reports that one man was interrupted several times by Kate Dwyer, a school board member who works as a librarian for the private, nonprofit Josephine Community Libraries. That led several audience members to complain about Dwyer.

Dwyer noted that the Bible has violent passages and she’d never support its removal from a school library.

She told the man, Joseph Rice, he needed to say what “Persepolis” was about and couldn’t just read portions to the board to show where he was offended.

Board Chairman Danny York told Dwyer to let Rice speak. A few minutes later, York asked that Rice stop due to the language being read from the book.

Rice asked why the book was in the library if the language wasn’t allowed in the district office.

“What type of a double standard is being taught?” Rice asked “If this is in a college level (library), I have no problem.”

Vikki Johnson, meanwhile, said she would pull her children out of the district if they came home with a book like “Persepolis.”

Johnson said she was offended by Dwyer “undermining a parent’s authority” over what books are available to their kids and inserting her approval of the book when a parent complained.

“I’m boiling mad,” she said. “You have your own opinions. Don’t put them on mine.”

The book had some support from the audience. An English teacher at a youth prison in Grants Pass defended the book, as did Sylvia Marr, a student at Hidden Valley High School.

“I don’t want to be sheltered,” Marr told the board.

Nothing was decided at the meeting. Board member Ron Crume Jr. suggested parents go through the district’s chain of command for requesting a review of the novel. If nothing happens at that level, parents can return to the board for possible action.

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