Book will not be part of any curriculum at CFAUSD

Parents of kids younger than 18 would need to sign a consent form for their child to read the...
Parents of kids younger than 18 would need to sign a consent form for their child to read the book.(WEAU/Maria Blough)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 2:03 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - In May of 2022 a parent petitioned the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District to remove a book from its schools.

That book is Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton.

Friday, July 1 the school district released the following statement:

“First off, it is important to understand the procedure the Board put in place because the board certainly may be asked to review a book more than just this one time. We have formed a committee made up of a designated Board member, teachers, students, parents and members of the community to review a book when a complaint is made. That process was completed and that review committee made the decision that the book Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe should not be banned nor any action taken.

Members of that committee were not allowed to vote unless they had read the book first. You should first note that this means our task of picking the members of this committee is as equally an important task as our decision on this book itself, if not more important given the number of books that may come before the board. The Board voted our member in at our organizational meeting. Any party disagreeing with the decision of the Committee has the full right under our designated procedures to appeal to the full board, which was done in this case. The procedure the Board then uses to review is what you might call an appellate type of review.

We do not re-hear all the facts and evidence again. Rather, we rely on a review of the record which contains all those facts, and we must give some weight to the recommendations of the committee we put in place. In plain terms, this means if we do not want to be tasked with reading an unlimited number of books, we have to have trust in the committee we picked. If we do not have that trust, or lose that trust, then we must pick a new committee. In this case, three Board members actually did read the book. Their insight was helpful.

Every Board member has different thoughts and ideas, and it is sometimes difficult to get a consensus. However, three main themes appeared with this book. First, the Board members who read the book, and committee members who read the book, overwhelmingly supported the notion that this book has significant literary value, particularly on the issue of teen depression and suicide. Second, there is no question that the book contains extreme written descriptions of sexual activity. It also contains a plethora of swear words. (768 by the Petitioner’s count). Finally, the issue of parental control came up in both ways.

The Board could easily see how some parents might not want their children reading this book in 9th grade or in any grade for that matter. On the other hand, some parents may want their child to have the option to read a book they feel has literary value, particularly if they, or someone they know are dealing with issues of depression, isolation, and possibly even suicide. Ultimately the Board decided in favor of parental control. If we do nothing, we are taking away the parental control of the parents like the Petitioner who do not want their child reading this book. If we ban the book, we are taking away the rights of the parents who would choose to have their child read this book. The Board chose to respect the rights of ALL parents to make their own choices for their children. Therefore, the board voted 5-2 as follows; “To require that the book, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, will not be part of the curriculum in any of our classes as optional reading for students without parental consent.”

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