The current controversy surrounding two books on the Emmaus High School summer reading lists is not a first for the East Penn School District.
Some board members expected to vote Sept. 24 on a motion to eliminate Tom Wolfe’s “Acid Test,” which is on the 10th grade summer reading list, and “Prep,” a 9th-grade selection written by Curtis Sittenfeld, as summer reading options. However, Board President Charles Ballard dismissed the motion for procedural reasons without giving the board a chance to discuss it.
The main thrust of Ballard’s dismissal came from the fact that the books were not challenged under a formal district procedure known as Policy 109. Until that happened, he said, the board, in Ballard’s view, should not make any determination about the books.
That same night, East Penn School District received challenges to both books under Policy 109. They were made by , according to a story in the Morning Call.
Slifka spoke out against both books at the Sept. 24 board meeting. The Policy 109 challenges she filed set in motion a formal committee review process that will end with a recommendation on each book to the East Penn School Board.
But what was never mentioned at that meeting was a challenge that was brought against “Acid Test” in 2007, according to East Penn Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger. “Prep” was challenged in 2011. Both challenges were made under Policy 109.
Following committee review in 2011, “Prep,” was pulled from the shelves of the Eyer Middle School library. Part of the rationale for removing the book from the Eyer library, Seidenberger explained, was the fact that “Prep” was not on the shelves of the Lower Macungie Middle School Library.
“It was just common sense,” Seidenberger said.
At that time, the committee report deemed “Prep” appropriate for the Emmaus High School Library.
The Policy 109 complaint focused on “Prep” being offered as a middle school library selection. As a result, the committee review only focused on the appropriateness of “Prep” as a library selection at the middle school and high school levels. Since an informal resolution could be reached to the satisfaction of all parties involved, Seidenberger said, the 2011 complaint on “Prep” never went before the East Penn Board of School Directors.
Formal Policy 109 challenges were filed against both “Prep” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” last month, and the district is in the process of pulling together review committees based on the requirements of the policy.
The biggest challenge will be coordinating the schedules of the school board members, teachers, administrators and parents who are required to comprise the committee.
Ultimately, the committee will make a recommendation to the East Penn School Board on the appropriateness of each book for the Emmaus High School Summer Reading program.