April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Parent Vows Board of Ed Appeal after NC High School Retains ‘House of the Spirits’

The parent who objected to the use of Isabel Allende’s novel The House of the Spirits (Knopf, 1982) in North Carolina’s Watauga High School vows she will appeal the decision of a school advisory committee, who voted unanimously last week to retain the book as part of the curriculum, the local Watauga Democrat reported today. Under school policy, an appeal must be filed within 15 days of the school’s committee’s ruling. According to the report, the parent plans to file her appeal on November 6.

Notably, however, the parent also said this week that she felt the book should not be banned, only that it should not be required reading for students, according to the Watauga Democrat.

Allende’s award-winning debut novel, a work of magical realism, tells the story of three generations of the Trueba family through triumph and tragedy. It was originally published in Spanish as La casa de los espíritus. It has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The parent filed her complaint—which, the Watauga Democrat had reported, centers on concerns that the book’s “challenging themes and ideas” are lost among graphic descriptions of violence—with the Watauga County Board of Education on October 14.

The challenge to the book was met with national opposition in recent weeks. For example, the People for the American Way Foundation (PFAW), a progressive advocacy and freedom of speech organization, sent a letter to the board on October 24 urging it to retain the novel. The high school’s school’s advisory committee took its unanimous vote the following day.

In Watauga County, the process for challenging educational texts has three components: a school committee reviews the material, then a Board of Education review committee, then it goes to the Board of Education at large. Decisions made by the board apply to all schools in the system.

The parent’s appeal next week, if submitted, will first be heard by the board’s review committee, a group of board members specifically appointed to review the challenged material.

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson (kpeterson@mediasourceinc.com) is a former News Editor ofSLJ.

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