GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two Guilford County mothers are on a mission to establish new standards for what books are required reading in Guilford County schools.
Lisa Reid and Cathy Barnette presented the Guilford County School Board with more than 2,300 signatures, all representing people who support a stricter grip on what their kids are reading.
There are a few books that are causing a stir with Reid, Barnette, and the others that signed the petition, but the one that upset both is Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
Atwood describes a futuristic, totalitarian, Christian theocracy and includes many vivid descriptions of sex, suicidal thoughts, and an extreme view of the Christian religion.
“We would like to see standards change so that sexually explicit pornographic reading material will not be assigned to our children in high school. It’s just not appropriate for teens,” Barnette said.
Reid said she felt Christian students are bullied in society, in that they’re made to feel uncomfortable about their beliefs by non-believers. She said including books like The Handmaid’s Tale contributes to that discomfort, because of its negative view on religion and its anti-biblical attitudes toward sex.
A media advisory committee at each school composed of administrators, teachers, a student, and a parent reads each book that teachers ask to add to the list. They then make a recommendation to the board of education, which has the final say on what is on the list of possible required reading and what is not.
Lynne Murray, a curriculum specialist with Guilford County Schools says the decision is informed by AP and IB testing standards, as well as reviews and any awards the book may have received as well as how complex the reading is and what students will get out of it.
“This is not some willy-nilly process. We have standards,” said Murray.
What Reid and Barnette want is more concrete standards that don’t change based on who is reading the book. Murray said that has been discussed, but it’s not that easy.
“We talked about drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, but we found that the lines are different. One parent’s line is here, while another parent’s line may be somewhere else,” said Murray.
Once Reid and Barnette file an official complaint, the media advisory committee will review the book.
That committee changes on a regular basis, so the same people that approved the book may not be the same people reviewing it. The committee will then make a recommendation to the Guilford County Board of Education as to removing the book or keeping it.
The board will have the final say.