A local father has brought a challenge against Shadow, by Joyce Sweeney. His eleven year old daughter, a sixth grader, checked the book out from her middle school library. Apparently, it contains a sex scene, an abortion, and an “aborted rape” scene (I don’t know what that exactly means).
Obviously the book engages with heavy issues. I don’t know how well it does this, as I haven’t read it. I’d be interested to know how it handles the issues that the parent has problems with. I’d appreciate if we had books that sensitively dealt with issues like rape – especially if they make it clear that rape is unacceptable. It’s unfortunate that young people need to know of these horrors, but they do. If you watch or read the news, you know that young people are the victims and perpetrators of awful crimes.
The book is meant for young people in grades 7 through 10. However, in most Florida schools, grades 6 through 8 are together in middle school. As far as I’m aware, all students have access to the books in their library, regardless of their grade level. That means that sometimes children will get their hands on books that are above their reading or maturity levels.
I appreciate the school district response, which said in part:
“Challenged materials may be removed from use in the school where the complaint was initiated only after the complaint and decision procedures of this policy have been completed. The material in question shall be studied by a school materials review committee. Even with these guidelines, it is possible for students to encounter reading material that is of a mature nature. In this case, the system worked as it is designed: the parent(s) properly engaged with the student, and a family decision was made that the book did not align with the student’s family’s values. The normal policy-based process is now underway to determine whether the book should be available to other students and families if they select it.” (Emphasis mine).
However, the book is still subject to be removed from shelves. The parent says he never thought he’d be the type to challenge a book, and he supports free speech, but he doesn’t think that this book is appropriate.