A heated and passionate discussion on a book called “The Secret Life of Bees” dominated the West Clermont Board of Education’s regular board meeting April 23.
Requesting that the board approve the book to start being taught in both district high schools was the first item on superintendent Gary Brook’s agenda.
Citing the novel as inappropriate for students, two parents with children in the school district attended the meeting and addressed the board on the issue of whether or not the novel should be approved as part of the ninth and tenth grade curriculum.
Pierce Township resident Karen Pointer, who has a daughter of elementary age in the school district, called the novel “depressing garbage” in her remarks to the board before the adoption and approval motion for the novel was made.
The objections to the novel raised by the concerned school district residents are not completely without merit, said board vice-president Jeff Burgess.
Just a few of the objectionable things concerning the novel that Pointer mentioned were the offensive language, the sexual innuendo, the fact that marriage is minimized and looked down upon, religion is portrayed in a poor light, the book teaches kids how to lie, and pushes issues of racism.
"Why would educators even suggest a book like this?" was the question Porter posed to the board. "It is obvious that this is inappropriate for our kids."
Discussion continued as the board debated and defended the merits of the book; the superintendent's motion for the board to approve the book was carried by a narrow vote of 3 to 2.
Board member Barbara Hartman said that, in her research on the book, other students who had read the book ] said that "The Secret Life of Bees" is a worthwhile piece of literature that intimately explores the civil rights movement and gives us a valuable perspective on the less than desirable times in that piece of American history.
"The Secret Life of Bees" is a coming-of-age story published in 2002 by author Sue Monk Kidd. Set in the American south in the year 1964 (the height of the civil rights movement), the novel is a coming-of-age story that deals with themes of racism, religion, and the power of the female community.
To avoid similar controversy in the future, the board intends to look into offering alternatives to the required reading and investigate some form of ratings systems, similar to film ratings, to give parents more input into the curriculum.