GUILFORD – The Board of Education has unanimously voted to keep five challenged books on the shelves of school libraries, following months of debate over the educational materials’ appropriateness.
The decision, which took place during a public workshop on Sept. 26, was announced by Chair Kathleen M.B. Balestracci during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“All nine members were present for this meeting and all votes were unanimous to allow continued use of “The Bluest Eye” in AP English and availability for all books,” she said.
Other books under review included “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, and “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robert H. Harris.
“I thought it was a wonderful discussion,” Balestracci said. “The board members had reviewed the books over the summer.”
All five books were challenged in formal complaints in May by a former school board candidate and parent Danielle Scarpellino, who warned that the books may result in “unwanted accidental exposure to sexually explicit material.” In her complaints, Scarpellino noted she wasn’t requesting the books to be banned, but rather that the board determine if the books were appropriate for children.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Balestracci said the decision within the Board of Education’s authority was whether a book can remain on a library shelf; and their ultimate ruling was that decisions on the books should be delegated to the school system’s professionally trained librarians.
Before the vote, she said, the board also discussed the quality of the books and their importance with Superintendent Paul Freeman and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Amity Goss.
Balestracci said the books addressed important topics like racism, bullying, poverty and sexual health and sexual identity.
Until other books are officially challenged, she said, “the Board of Education will continue to delegate authority to professional staff at Guilford Public Schools to make future decisions about these books.”
In an email to CT Examiner on Oct. 17, Scarpellino responded to the CT Examiner’s request for comment:
“With the decision to not identify and inform parents of sexually graphic and explicit books that are and will be accessible to children, the Board of Education is acting with moral confusion masquerading as moral clarity. They simply abdicated their authority and usurped the rights of parents to establish the appropriateness of these books for their children,” she wrote.
“For children without an understanding of healthy sexuality, exposure to pornography (especially violent porn) can be traumatic. The Board was made aware of this fact and chose to ignore it. They are now on record acting cowardly at best, and negligent at worst. With this decision, they have failed our children,” Scarpellino wrote.
CT Examiner did not receive a response from Danielle Scarpellino on this story’s date of publication, Oct. 13, 2023. Scarpellino responded by email on Oct. 17, 2023 and her comment was added. This story has been updated.