Brunswick resident renews challenge against Alexie book

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

BCSA Brunswick County woman who led the push to ban a controversial book from a public middle school last year has renewed her challenge–now at one of the district’s high schools.

But based on revised school board policy, this time her challenge will not be heard by education officials.

In a recent letter, Ash resident Frances Wood asks West Brunswick administrators to consider removing “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” from classrooms and library shelves.

It’s the same Sherman Alexie young adult novel Wood tried, through continued complaints and appeals, to take out of Cedar Grove Middle School in 2014.

Ultimately, the Brunswick County Board of Education allowed the book to remain, with the caveat that parental permission be required before students can check it out from the library.

Claiming she was “led by God” to have the book banned, Wood filed her original complaint against Cedar Grove last June for what she saw as numerous depictions of sexual behavior, as well as instances of racism, vulgar language, bullying and violence. Attached to her complaint was a petition signed by members of her church, Soldier Bay Baptist.

As outlined in district policy, the challenged was first reviewed by a team of educators and parents at Cedar Grove. The group decided unanimously that the book should remain in classrooms. Wood then appealed that decision, as well as then-Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden’s ruling to keep Alexie’s book.

Wood also stated in emails throughout the review process that she planned to extend her challenge to high schools, as well.

This most recent complaint comes just before her granddaughter, now at Cedar Grove, is set to attend West Brunswick High in August, according to Wood’s letter.

“I am very concerned about my grandchild who will be in high school next year in the West Brunswick area. In no way do her parents or my husband and I, along with our extended family, want any of our young relatives to be exposed to this book,” she wrote.

District policy mandates that parents or guardians who do not approve of school reading materials be granted a request for alternative texts.

Wood has most recently taken issue with what she perceives to be a promotion of bestiality within Alexie’s work.

“This book is very offensive to any moral person. It describes sexual practices, has references to sexual behavior…that is [sic] against the law in the state of NC, has offensive language, has negative remarks about the religious practices of Christians and Jews and has bullying along with other offensive references. It has derogatory statements about blacks and Indians and definitely shows racism,” Wood wrote to West Brunswick principal Brock Ahrens and media coordinator Carol Desmond.

She said teaching the book to teens is the equivalent of “aiding and abetting the delinquency of a minor especially since it has behavior that is wrong and some against the law.”

“This type of exposure in a school setting gives them the idea that since the book is given to them in school it must be good for them,” Wood argues. “They get enough of this kind of thing without our school system feeding it to their impressive minds.”

Under guidelines revised by the school board last month, challenges that complete the process through the board are considered final, and another review of the same challenged material will not be heard for a period of two years.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.