How do controversial books make it onto school-approved lists?

Local News

SOUTH JORDAN (News4Utah) – Aabery Martinsen is a senior at Bingham High School. She says on the first day of class, her teacher handed them a book list that included the book, “The Things they Carried,” a series of short stories about the Vietnam war.

She says her teacher told the class that the book had 72 instances of the “f” word and that she didn’t want to hear from the student’s parents if they were uncomfortable about the book, only from the students themselves. 

So how do controversial books like this one make it onto school-approved lists? Mindy Loke is the Jordan School District administrator over higher education literature and art and she explained that each of the 400+ books on the approved list has been read by an educator and a volunteer parent, then discussed and voted on by the Literature Selection and Review Committee.

If a parent wishes to contest a book on the list and request that it be removed, the board will review the book and again vote on its inclusion. 

In the case of “The Things They Carried,” Loke said, “There was a vet on the committee at the time and he spoke to the truth that he felt from reading that, having been in situations like it, he said ‘this guy was really there.’ “

Martinsen’s mother Lori says she will be contesting the book and asked, “Is it appropriate for those kinds of details for that kind of language, for that level of sexuality in it to be taught to minors in a public school setting? My daughter could not legally walk into a movie with a glimpse of what is in this book.”

In the Jordan School District, the review process for contested books begins in November. 

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