Parents challenge books assigned to Spartanburg Co. middle-schoolers


SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – After parents reached out to 7 News, concerned about the types of books assigned to their children in the classroom, we reached out to school district leaders to find out exactly how these books are chosen.

“When you think about something like mathematics, it’s not something that’s controversial,” Aly Myles, with Spartanburg County School District 3, said. “When you talk about reading, you’re talking about people’s opinions. Topics they might be interested in aren’t topics you might be interested in.”

Many would agree assigned reading in schools is an age-old battle–a battle that was recently fought at the Middle School of Pacolet, when an 8th grade honors English class was given the choice between two books: “13 Reasons Why,” which deals with bullying and suicide, or “Of Mice and Men,” which is a book that’s been assigned in classrooms across the nation for years.

According to school officials, 97% of the class voted to read “13 Reasons Why,” and some parents weren’t happy about it.

But the school district wants to remind those parents that these 8th graders are getting high school credit, which means they are reading more advanced literature with more controversial topics.

“It keeps students engaged and it makes them actually want to read the book,” Myles said.

When assigning books, the district uses a system they call “Voice and Choice.” They told 7 News they will never force a student to read something with which they are uncomfortable.

“It gives our students the option to voice what they’re interested in and, if a parent disagrees with that, there’s always an alternate assignment,” Myles said.

When choosing books, each teacher makes a list of ones they’ve read themselves and feel are appropriate to assign their class.

“They know what they’re doing,” Myles said. “They know what’s on the AP exam. They know what these students need to be prepared for.”

That list of books then goes to the principal to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

If any red flag is raised, the list is then passed on to district leaders and other options are discussed.

“Books are not chosen just randomly. These are books that not only fulfill standard requirements, they’re also filling AP requirements, depending on the age of the student,” Myles said.

Myles said, if you have any concerns regarding assigned books, you should contact your child’s teacher or principal. You can also contact the Superintendent.

Click here to see the top ten most-challenged books, according to the American Library Association.

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