Sexually explicit book pulled from Buena classes
SIERRA VISTA — A book listed as a Common Core curriculum exemplar text for 11th-grade students caused outrage this week when it was assigned by a Buena High School English teacher for two classes and students came across sexually explicit language, resulting in the book being pulled by administrators.
Curriculum Director Terri Romo told the school board at Tuesday night’s meeting that she contacted the Arizona Department of Education to find out how “Dreaming in Cuban,” by Cristina Garcia, got on the list of Common Core recommendations. She was told the exemplar texts are intended to show the correct reading level and are not recommendations for purchase.
There is also an Accelerated Reader test for the book, an assessment widely used in K-12 schools. It is suggested for 9-12th grade under the Accelerated Reader book guide. “Dreaming in Cuban” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Debbie Stoner told the Herald/Review that she removed her son from the English class after the students were asked to read the sexually explicit material out loud in class.
Speaking at the board meeting, Stoner said “It was read in class, so I’m going to read it here.”
Superintendent Kriss Hagerl asked to close the door to the board room first.
Part of the passage read by Stoner states, “Hugo bit Felicia’s breasts and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.”
“I hope every single one of you are so embarrassed by hearing that,” Stoner said. Her 16-year-old son and his 10th-grade classmates had to hear it. Stoner said the teacher had read the book before assigning it and didn’t think it was inappropriate.
Stoner had already emailed Cochise County School Superintendent Trudy Berry and said she intends to contact State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. She recommended the district appoint a committee of parents to review books before they are introduced in the classroom.
Barbara Hansen, a Sierra Vista resident and former elementary school teacher, also addressed the board and said “It just seems like it’s child pornography.”
She’s also concerned about “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, which is listed as an exemplar text under Common Core.
“We’re bludgeoning their souls with this kind of material. It’s debauchery and it’s just not worthy of our students,” Morrison said.
Hagerl, in her closing comments, said she normally doesn’t comment on Call to the Public at the close of a meeting but wanted to address this because it’s a serious issue.
Last spring the district curriculum department reviewed the Common Core exemplar texts for high school and selected books to use. None were noted to have any sexually explicit language and “Dreaming in Cuban” had nothing but positive reviews.
Had they been aware, parents would have been given notice about the book in advance and had an alternative option if they did not want their students to read the book, Hagerl said. The teachers may have just opted to choose a different book altogether.
“We have to be careful that we don’t start banning books,” Hagerl said. At the same time, it’s vital to give the parents the right to say yes or no in cases where violent or sexually explicit language is concerned.
“We’ve learned a lesson in this and we’ll make sure to put those steps in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Hagerl said.
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