Book to remain in school libraries, board rules

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DIXFIELD — The RSU 10 board voted overwhelmingly Monday night to allow a controversial book to remain in the libraries of middle schools in Dixfield, Mexico and Buckfield.

Although it will remain in the libraries, it will be placed in the library’s professional collection which means the book may be taken out by a student if parental permission is granted.

The book, “Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age,” by Ariel Schrag was challenged late last year by Becky Patterson who believes that the sexual and language references are objectionable. Her son attends Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, where the book is available.

The board agreed with a recommendation made by a special school committee that suggested the book be made available only with parental permission.

Board members Maida Demers-Dobson of Buckfield, Betty Barrett of Mexico and Marcia Chaisson of Rumford voted against the motion for very different reasons.

Demers-Dobson and Chaisson believe the restriction is a form of censorship.

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Barrett believes the book is inappropriate for middle school-age children, but could be placed in the high school libraries.

Board member Cynthia Bissell of Canton argued that the book does not fulfill the function of what she believes is the purpose of school. “I read it cover to cover. I was appalled,” she said. “This book does nothing to elevate students. It implies that everyone speaks and acts that way.”

She said schools banned the sale of candy and soda, but that doesn’t mean children can’t eat them out of school. As another example, she said guns are not allowed in school, but people have the right to bear arms away from schools.

“We need to regulate what is offered to the mind and find healthy alternatives,” she said.

Demers-Dobson objected to censorship.

“Of all the books available, let’s ban Shakespeare, particularly “Romeo and Juliet,” she said of attempts to ban “Stuck in the Middle.”

Chaisson said the book is poorly written and questioned whether a child dealing with bullying or anything else could gain any insight or sense of not feeling alone with a particular problem by reading it.

“But I agree with Maida. It’s censorship,” she said.

Dixfield board member Bruce Ross, who made the motion to support the special committee’s recommendation, said he was concerned that the publicity surrounding the book may boost the number of students who want to take it out.

The book has been taken out rarely, according to librarians.

He also said students could get similar information, language and attitudes from the Internet, and could check the book out of public libraries, which is where Bissell said it belonged.

Student board representative from Mountain Valley High School, Alex Parent, said students see worse on television and in movies.

Superintendent Tom Ward said this was the first time in his eight years as leader of a school district that a book was challenged.

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