RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Wake County School System said it’s investigating after the head of a conservative group told the school board a high school class read aloud a book that included a sexually explicit passage.
The book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, is written from the perspective of an American Indian teenager who attends a mostly white high school. In 2007, it won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. It is also at the top of the American Library Association’s list of the most challenged books from 2010-19.
At a recent Wake County School Board meeting, Julie Page, the head of the local chapter of the conservative group, Moms For Liberty, said a female high school student was asked to read a sexually explicit passage in her class at Athens Drive High School in the fall. She said the student declined to read the passage, but Page read it to board members.
The passage is about masturbation.
Part of it reads, “If there were a professional masturbator league, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars, and maybe you’re thinking you shouldn’t really be talking about masturbation in public….”
“Can you explain why the subject matter should be part of an ELA curriculum for any age or grade?” Page questioned, during the public comment portion of the meeting.
This is not the first book that Moms For Liberty has taken issue with, and it’s common to hear speakers address the Wake County School Board during public comment, urging them to remove certain books from library shelves.
Someone who asked not to be identified, told CBS 17 she was in the classroom at the time, said there were giggles from other students when the girl chose not to continue reading the passage. The person added that when another student offered to read the passage, the teacher said, “Kudos to you for reading it.”
A spokesperson for WCPSS said the district is investigating the allegations, but also said that an initial review has not substantiated them. The district also noted that the school has not received any complaints regarding this situation in the months since it was said to have happened.
Renee Sekel, with Save Our Schools NC, works to keep books from being banned in schools.
“I think our schools are facing much bigger issues than kids reading books that maybe mention sex,” she said. “Books, that accurately reflect that sometimes teenagers do have sex or at least they’re curious about sex, that’s not pornography.”
She added that there is a process for parents to opt-out if they don’t want their children to read a certain book.
“You can go to the teacher, and you can say, ‘I need my kid to read an alternate book.’ That is something that is available,” Sekel said.