Some Buncombe County parents upset about school reading assignment

A committee with the North Buncombe High School is deciding on whether or not national bestseller “The Bluest Eye” should be removed from the English 3 Honors curriculum. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A committee with the North Buncombe High School is deciding on whether or not national bestseller “The Bluest Eye” should be removed from the English 3 Honors curriculum.

A parent filed the challenge against Toni Morrison’s novel, published in 1970, because of its controversial content, including child molestation. The main character is sexually abused by her father.

English Curriculum Coordinator Eric Grant said the teacher informed students and parents of the reading through the syllabus at the start of the school year.

"It's a little bit difficult to determine what one person is going to determine is too much for a child and what another person might not consider too much for a child," said Grant. "Students are also encouraged to talk to their teacher if they feel uncomfortable about something. It's not just up to the parents."

It also included a disclaimer about the controversial content and said students could opt out of the reading and replace it with another book.

"Sometimes, we get so much paperwork we don't always read all of it through and through, and, maybe, that's our fault for that. I think once it's gotten to that point of being read, I think it's too far," said Tim Coley, a North Buncombe High School parent.

When hearing about the content, he said students shouldn't be reading "The Bluest Eye," despite it being in the curriculum for years. The book has never been challenged in the district.

"It's astounding really that somebody thinks it's OK for kids to be reading this in school,Coley said. "As a Christian single dad, that’s not the values I teach my kids, and it’s certainly not OK for them to have to read a book like that."

The committee will be reviewing the entire book, not just the parts that are sexually explicit in nature. Committee members will also review how important the novel is and how it fits into the curriculum.

"A parent objection gets a really fair shake. Lots of people get to look at it and really analyze it," said Grant. "It is not entirely school-based. These are community members who come together."

If the school-based committee decides the book is unfit, it will be taken out of the curriculum. If it decides it’s appropriate, the parent has 10 days to have "The Bluest Eye" examined at the county level. That committee then makes a recommendation to the school board within 15 days and the board votes on the issue within 30 days.

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