After a brief but important hearing, the Park County School District No. 6 Educational Resources Complaints Committee decided whether to keep or remove two books available in the Cody High School library.
Nearly 50 people attended the first of two hearings regarding two books currently available at the Cody High School library. Park County School District #6 Educational Resources Complaints Committee Heard Cases of Removal or Retention of Books The purple color and How to be an anti-racist.
The REC committee is not an extension of the school board but a mixture of teachers, administration and parents. At any time, at least three members must be parents.
Plaintiffs – Carol Armstrong for The purple color and Jim Vetter for How to be an anti-racist – had ten minutes to plead their case. District Librarian Jennisen Lucas was also given ten minutes to state her case as District Librarian. At the end of each argument, the committee was allowed to ask questions before calling a vote.
The crowd was a mix of Cody residents of all ages. Interestingly, many attendees wore the color purple – a clear sign of their support for the novel and the importance of keeping it available for students at Cody High School.
Armstrong argued that The purple color is inappropriate for high school students due to its “pornographic content” and “vulgar language”.
Armstrong referenced his childhood during World War II, lamenting the nation’s “moral decline” since the war. Core values, she says, are continually under attack.
She calls it a “vulgar adult book” and considers it pornographic. These concepts, she says, should not be introduced into the impressionable minds of “children.”
epistolary novel, The purple color, published in 1982 by Alice Walker, follows the story of Celie, a poor and uneducated 14-year-old African American girl living in the American South in the 1900s. In the book, her father, Alphonso , beats her and sexually abuses her. The remainder of the novel traces Celie’s gradual triumph as she manages to resist cruelty and oppression.
Narrating her life through letters to God, Celie reveals painful truths about marriage, friendship, love and abuse. Eventually developing relationships with other black women, Celie’s story explores one person’s journey to find fulfillment and independence. Walker’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. In 1985, Steven Spielberg directed an acclaimed film adaptation of the book.
Armstrong quoted the principles of the Founding Fathers and CS Lewis. She also noted the Supreme Court case Miller v. California, which ruled that obscene material is not protected as free speech under the 1st Amendment.
Also, Armstrong didn’t want to feel like she was trying to ban the book. The book is available at the Park County Library and for purchase at many locations and does not need to be available at a high school library.
During the question and answer period, there was a discussion about the library’s email notification system. Parents automatically receive emails each time their children borrow books from the school library. However, parents can unsubscribe from emails at any time.
Armstrong is adamant that “parents are the boss” when it comes to public school education. The committee said the email system was another example of parental authority, as they can choose not to let their children read the book.
Lucas reviewed the book selection process and the determinations used to assess age suitability, saying personal feelings aren’t the most important factor when deciding what literature should be. available for students.
Lucas cited several independent agencies — like Common Sense Media — that have assigned appropriate ages to books like The purple color. In this case, the parents think the book is more appropriate at an earlier age than the students. Parents think it’s suitable for ages 13+, students think 16+ is appropriate.
Additionally, Lucas said the book is considered “classic literature” and is relevant historical fiction for school curricula. Books like Walker’s novel teach critical thinking and reading in helpful historical context – essential skills for all children.
Lucas did not deny that the book contains physical and sexual abuse and vulgar language. However, the book also depicts segregation in the American South before the Civil Rights Movement and depicts characters encountering and overcoming serious challenges.
After some comments and discussion, the committee voted unanimously to maintain The purple color at the Cody High School Library.
After the arguments and questions and answers, the committee was allowed to make comments. The consensus was since The purple color is not part of the school’s English or social studies curriculum, it was optional reading and there was no need to remove it.
A committee member mentioned that the First Amendment also protects someone’s exposure to ideas, and ignoring the book’s educational value is a “slippery and dangerous slope” when it comes to student rights. That comment drew scattered applause – the only disruption during the half-hour hearing.
After a call for votes, the committee submitted their votes anonymously. The result was an 8-0 vote to keep The purple color in the library at Cody High School.
The committee held a similar hearing for the 2019 book by Ibrahim X. Kendi How to be an anti-racistwhich remains in the Cody High School Library after a 9-0 vote.
*This story was written by Andrew Rossi and Caleb Nelson