ONEIDA —“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas will remain suspended from ROWVA High School classrooms but allowed in the school library, the ROWVA District 208 Board of Education decided Tuesday.
The decision does not alter the Board’s previous ruling on the book made in November, when concerns were first raised by community members over the book’s content. Ultimately, the Board moved last night to postpone taking any further action on the book until the Board has approved “the core values of the ROWVA school district” and established a curriculum committee to review “The Hate U Give.”
In the final 4-2 call, board members Rob Kalb and Missie Shepherd voted against the plan and board members Matt Johnson, John Kuelper, Scott Lake and Ryan West voted in favor. Board President Jim Haynes was absent.
“The Hate U Give,” a novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement according to the writer’s website, is about a sixteen year old who witnesses her friend shot and killed by police. During public comments, parents, students, educators and ROWVA alumni spoke their case on whether the book was valuable or inappropriate for instruction in freshman English courses.
A primary concern was that “The Hate U Give” contained too many expletives. Speakers also charged that there was a lack of transparency between the curriculum and the ROWVA community and that the book violated written Board policy.
“We’re supposed to respect your profession when you promote this to our youth? Is a book that has 300 expletives ROWVA strong?” one speaker asked the room.
Proponents of “The Hate U Give” argued the book brought important discussions of race and racial inequality into the classroom.
ROWVA Senior Abigail Lee said if the language in the book was indeed the problem, then other books such as To Kill A Mockingbird or The Scarlet Letter should be suspended as well. “We go to a school that has near zero diversity,” Lee said. “Through watching all this happen, I have lost my pride in being a ROWVA fighter.”
Following public comment, the board members discussed to what extent there must be oversight over the teaching materials each educator includes in their curriculum.
“I think as a board we’re walking a thin line between critiquing our teachers to the point where they feel that we don't value their expertise,” board member Missie Shepherd said.
Other board members insisted on the need of a curriculum committee to keep curriculum in check with what ROWVA community members want, and that there are many other acceptable books that could be used in the classroom as a replacement for “The Hate U Give.”
“I don’t think we should teach this book at all,” board member Ryan West said.
ROWVA District Superintendent Joe Sornberger made the recommendation that the book should not be banned or suspended.
“We have a policy for parents to opt out,” Sornberger said.
Vice president of the board Scott Lake assured that the book is not banned, and that he is not interested in reviewing all of the teacher's materials, but he wants to assure that class materials are appropriate and following policy.
“The issue is it would have never gotten into the curriculum based on the policies that we have. So we're not banning the book, we're recovering for the mistakes made in not following the policies,” Lake said. “But we have failed as a district.”
After the meeting ended, Seth Huizenga, an audience member and ROWVA parent, said he was not entirely satisfied with the book’s continued suspension.
"From what I saw today, a lot of parents are mad and I don’t want parents educating my child. I want a professional educating my child,” Huizenga said.
This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Banned book? 'The Hate U Give' becomes controversial in ROWVA school district