Special to Emmaus Patch By Chrissy Cilento, Emmaus High School Senior
Out of all the evening plans I’ve heard my classmates talk about at school, one of the most unexpected had to be yesterday in English when two girls chattered excitedly about going to the school board meeting that night. Speaking from personal experience, unless something is really, really interesting, students don’t ever go to school board meetings. So why is it that all of a sudden when the words “Prep” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” are mentioned there’s a sudden influx of Emmaus High School students attending these meetings? Well, from what I see in school and hear in the hallways, kids are genuinely passionate about this situation.
Just from talking to a handful of classmates, I’ve gotten a pretty clear understanding of how the majority of students at Emmaus feel about the questioning of these two books -- they don’t like it. At all. Senior Christian Urrutia, who attended the school board meeting on Monday, is just one of the many students who supports the presence of these books as optional choices on summer reading lists. He explains: “As students we need to have controversial subjects addressed in schools. If we limit our learning to just traditional topics, we’ll be deprived of a full understanding of issues that plague our generation.” Many students agree with Urrutia’s stance, saying that the books don’t offer any information they haven’t already read about on the Internet, heard about in music, or even witnessed in movies. To the students that I’ve talked to, the whole situation seems a little bit ridiculous.
Two students in particular, seniors Isaiah Zukowski and Neil Ren, have taken their beliefs on the subject to the next level. They both spoke at the school board meeting on Monday, citing the importance to students of keeping these books on the reading list. In addition, they’ve created an online petition opposing the removal of these books. The petition states:
We, the undersigned, ask the East Penn School District to continue to uphold the intellectual freedom of the students at Emmaus High School. The school board should not remove the novels "Prep" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," marked clearly as recommended and not as required, from their respective summer reading lists at Emmaus High School. To do so would violate the rights of the students, led by their parents, to pursue an interest in a wide range of literary works at their own discretion.
We recognize that parents ultimately have the right to choose what is best for their child, but we challenge the actions taken by a few parents in an effort to censor the reading choices of all students of a variety of backgrounds and circumstances.
Since its creation less than a week ago, the petition has already accumulated 125 signatures from students of Emmaus High School, both current and former, and Emmaus community members. According to Zukowski, the motive behind starting the petition was “to make it clear that students were not going to be passive observers of this situation and that we want to be actively involved in our education.”
The petition is on its way to becoming a sort of rallying point for students, letting those who wouldn’t otherwise get involved express their opinion and be a part of something that the average high school student doesn’t usually get to participate in. As it grows in size it’s not just a means of students supporting their beliefs, but also a way of “sticking it to the man,” if you will. Students are using this petition as an opportunity to express the fact that their beliefs should be considered in this case, too. It’s not just about the upset parents anymore. Students are now just as interested and just as capable of making their opinions known as the adults. Zukowski says “I think our petition is making it clear that the angry parents who started this issue are not speaking for the whole, that this is very much a divisive issue -- these parents are not acting in the best interest of every student.”
Although ultimately the final decision on whether to keep or ban the books from the summer reading list lies with a designated committee, there’s no doubt that the students at EHS won’t let this issue go silently. Whether it’s through signing petitions, making Facebook statuses, or spending three hours at a school board meeting on a Monday night, the students of Emmaus are doing all they can to make sure that their intellectual and educational liberties are respected and that the power to choose what books they read lies in their hands.
Chrissy Cilento, a senior at Emmaus High School, plans to study journalism in college. She is a periodic contributor to Patch.