Book-banning discussion bubbles up at Chilliwack board table

‘This is Alabama time, and we should stay away from it,’ board chair argues

A Chilliwack school trustee read a steamy passage out loud to the board on Tuesday. It was from a young adult novel, and used as evidence that parents should have informed consent on all materials used in schools.

Trustee Heather Maahs read from Australian author John Marsden’s dark fiction novel titled Tomorrow, When the War Began, which is written from the viewpoint of a teenage girl living through an insurgence by an unnamed country.

“I was clinging to him and pressing against him as though I wanted to let my whole body inside him and I liked the way I could make him groan and grasp and swear (the novel says sweat). I liked giving him pleasure, although it was hard to tell what was pleasure and what was pain. I was teasing him, touching him and saying ‘Does that hurt? Does that? Does that?’ and he was panting saying ‘Oh God … no, yes, no’. It made me feel powerful.”

“That is an excerpt from a Grade 9 novel being studied in our school distinct,” Maahs said, and when asked about the title added: “It’s called Tomorrow by John Marsden, look it up.”

The context of the excerpt Maahs used is from a scene in Chapter 18, in which the main character explains that she and her love interest, and most of their friends, are virgins.

In the end, Maahs’ motion to create an Informed Parental Consent policy did not pass, as it only received three of the seven votes at the table. Trustees Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason voted in favour of the policy, while Trustees Dan Coulter, Willow Reichelt, Jared Mumford and David Swankey all spoke against it. Her motion implies that teachers would have to foresee “resources that some may consider controversial” and inform parents about its use.

Trustee Jared Mumford noted that what is “controversial is relative,” and that consent forms would become onerous.

“How many consent forms are going home (with this policy)?” he said.

While Maahs’ motion did not explicitly state her intent was to regulate sexual content, nor does it refer to reading material in libraries, her statement at the meeting did.

“I think we can all figure out that I’m talking about sexual content in the curriculum … I am talking about SOGI 123, but I’m also talking about novels and anything that may arrive in a sexual nature,” she said.

Coulter noted several reasons the motion should fail, including contravention of the school act. He also said it was reminiscent of book banning and book burning.

“People would be objecting to phrases in books in libraries,” he said, and books on biology could be deemed controversial by some parents. “It would be endless. This is Alabama time, and we should stay away from it.”

The four nay voters also said parents already do have the ability to speak to their children’s teachers about any and all content used in a classroom. In Maahs’ motion she said that those processes are reactive rather than proactive. The way informed consent works, the student would not be able to participate without written permission from their parent or guardian, similar to field trip forms. This would give parents the option to opt their child out of conversations before they happen.

A book banning case happened closer to home than Alabama. About 20 years ago, the Surrey School Board tried to implement a ban on three children’s books, Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the ban breached the School Act.

The book and its series that Maahs referenced on Tuesday night has earned accolades internationally, by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the New South Wales Board of Studies, and the American Library Association, among others. It has been printed by Scholastic as well.

READ MORE: Teachers’ union says SOGI 123 debate by Chilliwack trustee candidates is irrelevant


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

Chilliwack Centre of Excellence paddlers make national teams

The CCE athletes battled through four heats at Canadian team trials in Oklahoma.

OPINION: When observation affects what is observed

I’m aware that covering criminal court proceedings can impact lives and sometimes the proceedings too

Crown seeking 30 months for Abbotsford vehicle theft, flight from police, Chilliwack crash

Michael Joseph Hasell has 47 criminal convictions on his record in B.C. and Alberta

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Most Read