FREMONT — A controversial novel that the school board banned from classrooms this past school year will be considered again tonight.

The board meets at 6:30 tonight at City Hall, 3300 Capitol Ave.

In June 2009, a high-school teacher sought permission to assign Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina" to her students in her Advanced Placement English class. The book tells the story of a girl whose stepfather beat and raped her.

Trustees Lily Mei, Larry Sweeney and Ivy Wu rejected the book, citing concerns over masturbation and rape scenes.

In May, the three also rejected a resolution recognizing Harvey Milk Day, which honors California's first openly gay elected official. Although the trustees cited various reasons for opposing the resolution — such as wanting it to recognize other pioneers in politics and not just one individual — some community members are calling Mei, Sweeney and Wu the conservative members of the five-person school board.

Teri Hu, the Washington High teacher who is seeking permission to teach "Bastard Out of Carolina," said four of the district's high school libraries carry the book.

"There are students reading it unsupervised. You would think reading it in a supervised environment would be an improvement," she said.


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"I personally find it extremely insulting that people "... who have never observed me teaching would automatically assume that I can't handle discussing and handling the ideas in a controversial text in a way that students come away with a more enlightened understanding of the world. I'm fairly confident I know how to teach this book," said Hu, who has taught in Fremont for 12 years.

Sweeney said Tuesday that he still does not plan to vote for the book. "I read the book last year and remarked that I did not believe it provided any benefit to our students. "... I also believe it to be poorly constructed from a literary perspective," he said in an e-mail.

"We, as a district, can do so much better for our children. The book is still available in the libraries and is not banned or censored. "... It just cannot (at present) be assigned as supplemental reading."

Before a book is recommended to the school board, it must be approved by the English Curriculum Committee, a group consisting of the district's English department heads, then by the Secondary Schools' Textbook Adoption Committee, made up of teachers, administrators, parents and a school board member. This year, the textbook committee approved "Bastard Out of Carolina" 12-1-1, with Mei abstaining.

In addition to Allison's novel, another book the board will review tonight is "Waiting," by Ha Jin, which makes references to adultery and contains a rape scene.

Contact Linh Tat at 510-353-7010. Follow her at Twitter.com/Linh_Tat

IF YOU GO
  • WHAT: Fremont school board meeting
  • WHEN: 6:30 p.m. today
  • WHERE: City Hall, 3300 Capitol Ave.
  • INFORMATION: 510-657-2350 or www.fremont.k12.ca.us