Letter: A proposal for handling controversial books in schools 



The discussion of the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue” at the June 10 Carmel Clay school board meeting exhibited a concerning trend: a rigid dichotomy that promotes one group’s liberty while destroying another’s. This all-or-nothing mindset can lead only to polarization and discord among members of a community. 

Liberty is a bedrock principle that must be grounded in legitimate authority. For school-age children, the parents are that authority and any decision by the CCS board must support parents’ responsibility to nurture their children until they are able to lead independent lives. 

Parental responsibility includes the choice of literary content to which their children are exposed. This responsibility is not nullified when children are in school and most educators endorse parental desire to shield their children from harmful or obscene material. The issue is differing opinions on what constitutes material that is harmful or obscene. There is no debate that sexually explicit material is included in many of the books under consideration; the only debate is whether such material is harmful to minors. 

Without entering that debate, we propose an option that can satisfy the desires and obligations of all parties. Schools can make controversial material available to students, subject to parent approval. In this scenario, parents who desire their child to explore the material can instruct the child to request the book, can communicate approval to the school and can discuss the content’s place in the family’s value system. Parents who choose not to explore such material can avoid it while not infringing on the rights of other families. This option would safeguard the liberty of all parties and would adhere to the spirit of Carmel City Council member Jeff Worrell’s recent articles on civility in the community. 

Steve and Julie Link, Carmel