New Hampshire Parents Angry Over Assigned Novel

Hot on the heels of a Florida case where a teacher told a 5th grade student that he was not to bring his Bible for personal reading material, parents in Gilford, New Hampshire are up in arms about a high school’s insistence on assigning sexually graphic literature to their children.

Emotions reached the boiling in point in Gilford on May 5th at a school board meeting, resulting in one parent being led away in handcuffs. The upset centers around the book “Nineteen Minutes” by bestselling author Jodi Picoult. The book is about a school shooting, but the violent content is not what has these parents angry at Gilford High School. Instead, the controversy surrounds a graphic sex scene late in the novel. William Baer, the father arrested for not leaving the meeting when asked to do so, was only one of several parents aghast at the material.

In defense of the novel, officials claimed that the book held important and relevant messages about high school violence, alienation, and other themes students across the country struggle with in today’s age. Nevertheless, parents claim that the sexual content of the book overshadows these messages, and that they should have been contacted regarding the appropriateness of the scene. In past years, Gilford High School has indeed warned parents about the book. School officials claimed that they forgot to send home the warnings this year.

Whether or not the book is appropriate for high school students is a question better addressed by child psychologists and literature experts, but that is not the question up for debate. Rather, the controversy in Gilford highlights a problem that has plagued the public school system for many years: the failure of educators to let parents know how their children are being indoctrinated. In an era where religious instruction of any kind would be enough to put a teacher out of a job, it is remarkable that graphic sexual exposure receives such limited attention. Teen pregnancy rates have recently hit a 30-year low, but that hardly seems like a call to entice impressionable students with literature that presents rough teen sex as a norm worth internalizing.

Let’s concede for the sake of argument that “Nineteen Minutes” is a novel worth having in the curriculum. Certainly, Lean Right America does not support book banning, book burning, or any other form of censorship at a government level. It is important, however, to make a distinction. Parents should at all times have the right to censor what materials their kids are subjected to. In fact, it is more than their right. It is their responsibility to ensure that their kids are exposed to the thoughts and ideas that will nourish their developing values. To some parents, a book like “Nineteen Minutes” will be perfectly acceptable. To others, it won’t. The important thing is that schools like Gilford High allow parents of both persuasions to decide what’s right for their own children.

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