Hello and happy Saturday! It was an interesting week in the Ohio bureau. It was also a special week: Our oldest is graduating from high school this afternoon and I spent the week vacillating between stressing and smiling and blubbering, the latter taking over Thursday morning when the seniors embarked on a communal bike ride to school for their final day. Everyone meets in a supermarket parking lot, and the 500-plus students follow a police escort for the mile-long ride to the high school. It’s a tradition I’ve watched play out for years when parents shared photos on social media, and I always thought it was a sweet gesture. But it really packs a wallop when your kid is participating.
But the interesting part came that evening, when our school board held its regular monthly meeting. Now, don’t worry: We do want to cover stories outside of the Beltway here at The Dispatch, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to start reporting on municipal government or writing up the monthly Rotary Club luncheon. But this is a tale that will be familiar to many no matter where you live.
Last month, complaints began surfacing in local Facebook groups about In the Time of the Butterflies, a novel assigned to sophomore honors English/Language Arts classes. For those of you who are unfamiliar (as I was, because my own high school English curriculum featured a pretty standard mix of MacBeth, Holden Caulfield, Hester Prynne, and Boo Radley), it’s a work of historical fiction about four real-life sisters who were leading opponents of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The story is about the risks they took and how their involvement in the resistance shaped their lives and marriages but—spoiler alert—there’s some sex stuff.
There was a lot of predictable squabbling on social media, with some folks saying that public schools were dangerous and parents should pull their kids in favor of private school and others responding that no one was stopping them. (I did chuckle when a friend posted that her son had read the book at his Catholic high school.) In the end, only three people filed a formal complaint with the school. But the district convened a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators to read and discuss the book and vote on whether to remove it from the reading list. The panel voted to keep the book, but a parent appealed, and so the school board took it up and held its own vote.