Telstar Middle/High School Librarian Kelly Fraser reads her argument for keeping, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews in the library. Stephanie Erickson who brought the challenge is in the center, back. Rose Lincoln

BETHEL —  Telstar Librarian Kelly Fraser spoke firmly and with conviction in her response to a book challenge in her library at Telstar High School.

“Banning books infringes upon everyone’s freedom to read. It impedes the right to cultivate intellectual curiosity. It obstructs the open exchange of information … The SAD 44 school board policies set the bar extremely high for banning a book and with good reason,” said Fraser.

The book titled, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews is on loan at the Telstar Middle/High School library and was challenged by former school board member Stephanie Erickson.

Four of the 19 audience members at the SAD 44 school board meeting on Monday came to the lectern to speak. Three were opposed to banning the book. Erickson was the only one who spoke in favor of the ban. The Board sat silently; they were there to hear from citizens.

Fraser, a teacher and librarian at Telstar for the past 26 years, said a student’s parents or legal guardians are the final say in what materials a child shall read. “However, at no time will the wishes of one child’s parents to restrict his or her reading or viewing of a particular item infringe on other parents’ rights to permit their children to read or view the same material,” she said.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” had not been taken out of the library for more than four years, said Fraser. “The challenger [Erickson] does not have a student who checks books out of this library.  This indicates the challenge is likely not about the book, the language in the book, the content, or the overall theme, but instead the censoring and banning of books for students who use the Telstar library.


“Banning this book will take away choice from all students and parents. If this book is taken off the shelves, if this infringement of the 1st Amendment is ever allowed, this will not be the last time we will be here at a school board meeting debating this issue.

“This will establish a dangerous precedent,” said Fraser.

Stephanie Erickson, who spoke first, reiterated what she had said in her written challenge and in interviews. When the book committee recommended keeping the book, Erickson appealed the decision.

She said criteria for book selection was not followed or recognized by the committee. “Books of this nature stand to normalize rape, incest, inappropriate adult child sexual behavior among younger students.” She asked that the board request alternative books.

Janet Bartlett who was part of the book challenge committee said she supported the decision they made as a committee, “to uphold freedom of choice.” She said there are books in the library that she wouldn’t want her children to read or to be exposed to, “but the policy reminds me that we need to pay attention as parents … ,” said Bartlett.

Marcel Polack of Woodstock urged everyone to look at a banned book list hanging in the library. “One of those books is ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ … As is happening right now, it was an outside group [that opposed the book] …  This is the problem with banning a book for any reason whether it’s because you don’t like the message about exploiting people or it’s about sexual language , it’s a slippery slope… ”

He said the Bible, one of the banned books on the list, has may overarching positive themes. “It’s the same thing with, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,’ in the complaint, the complainant actually states that the overall message of the book is good and that’s why the book is here in this library.

“It’s important to leave it,” said Polak

The SAD 44 School Board will make its decision on the book challenge Feb. 26.

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