By Shareen Strauss
A very concerning issue has Mt. Shasta High School parents outraged because of a book that was chosen for the freshmen English class curriculum called 'The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.' According to many of the parents, English teacher Jennifer Wildemen chose this book that contains inappropriate content for children of this age that includes explicit sexual content, profanity, and the use of derogatory terms. This book by Sherman Alexie was banned in 2010 and since by many school districts across the U.S.
While the Siskiyou Unified High School District Board said in their last meeting that this issue should first be addressed with the school first, Mt. Shasta High School Principal Rachel Wolmar said that she will listen to the parents' concerns first and then address the issues.
Ben Whetstine, who has a son in this freshmen English class, addressed the school's Dean, Juliane Tinsman, with the following letter:
"I was recently informed (not by a permission slip) that my son had to read in his Freshman English Class a book titled, 'The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.' I was notified of this by another parent who is equally as outraged as I am given the explicit content of this book. Screenshots of some of the pages of this book have made it around the community and many parents are deeply concerned. In these screenshots are some of the following lines in the book;
“Naked woman + right hand = happy happy joy joy”
“Yep that’s right I admit I masturbate. I’m proud of it. I’m good at it.”
“If there were a professional masturbators league I’d get drafted number one…”
“And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.”
“Kid, if you get my daughter pregnant, if you make some charcoal babies…”I was also informed it contains a lot of bad language.
I can go on but I won’t. What is going on here?! How is this okay? I realize that somebody of people may have made this “approved curriculum.” That means nothing to us parents who are deeply offended at the explicit nature of this book. Just because something is approved doesn’t mean it should be used.
Is the school administration aware that since 2009 (internet search) this book has been banned every year in school districts nationwide because of its explicit content. Yet we are using it here? Why? Did someone steal all of the millions of books out there that are more wholesome in nature that could easily replace such filth?
This is a great example of why parents, local and nationwide are losing confidence in educators who seem to lack common sense and proper judgment when it comes to OUR kids. There seems to be a willingness to expose children to content that is age inappropriate and so easily identified as trash. Why? Did the school administration really think parents were going to be okay with this book? Before deciding to use this trash to “teach” our kids did any of you consider how the parents might feel? Did that matter at all?
There are a growing number of parents in this district that feel we are sending our kids to the wolves every day and feel like we have to protect our kids from the staff of this school district. This book is completely unreasonable.
Another aspect that clearly was not considered by your staff was that many of us parents really try to protect our children from explicit content on the internet by paying attention to what they are doing on their phones and computers. Then this school comes along and undermines our efforts by exposing them to filth. Is it reasonable to say we shouldn’t be upset about this?
One parent reported wishing to be kept anonymous stated "When I found out about this book which was after it was already read and the book report was already done, I called my son and asked him if he knew anything about it. He said yes, and was concerned he was going to get in trouble because of the content of the book. I had to lovingly tell him no, that this is not his fault but the fault of the school administration failing to be responsible. So I sit here in a state of grief knowing that for however many days or weeks my son’s conscience was being pricked as he knew he was reading something his parents would never be okay with, and he is being told to by his teacher!"
Another concerned parent, Jacob Merkel, remembers last December 20th when the now MSHS Principal Racheal Wolmar was working as a teacher at Sisson Elementary School when she displayed "pride flags" that consisted of LGBJQ, transgender, and gay pride. He pulled his children out of school during that time. The flags stayed up for the rest of the school year.
"Just because it is allowed, doesn't mean it is right. This book (The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), was not mandated by the state-it was selected by the school. We don't need opinions or ideologies in school. I do not want the schools to tell my kid's morals. We will parent our own children. They need to just educate them."
Merkle doesn't want peace talks, he says that he wants to make changes for the future.
Asking his son to read a passage from this book, his son said, "It makes me feel too weird and uncomfortable because it is that bad."
All the parents I spoke to including parents
that have teenagers outside of Mount Shasta high school.
All said that the schools responsibility
is reading, writing, math, and history.
A second book called Speak, written by Laurie Halse Anderson was chosen to also be read by the Freshman English class. It chronicles the struggles of thirteen-year-old Melinda Sordino after she is raped at a party.
On October 27th, Principal Wolmar sent out an email to parents letting the students opt out of reading these books if they wish.
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