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Emmaus Students Ask Board to Keep Controversial Books

Two Emmaus High School students list their reasons the East Penn School Board should keep 'Prep' and 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' on the suggested summer reading list.

Special to Emmaus Patch By Chrissy Cilento, Emmaus High School Senior

Out of all the evening plans I’ve heard my classmates talk about at school, one of the most unexpected had to be yesterday in English when two girls chattered excitedly about going to the school board meeting that night. Speaking from personal experience, unless something is really, really interesting, students don’t ever go to school board meetings. So why is it that all of a sudden when the words “Prep” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” are mentioned there’s a sudden influx of Emmaus High School students attending these meetings? Well, from what I see in school and hear in the hallways, kids are genuinely passionate about this situation. 

Just from talking to a handful of classmates, I’ve gotten a pretty clear understanding of how the majority of students at Emmaus feel about the questioning of these two books -- they don’t like it. At all. Senior Christian Urrutia, who attended the school board meeting on Monday, is just one of the many students who supports the presence of these books as optional choices on summer reading lists. He explains: “As students we need to have controversial subjects addressed in schools. If we limit our learning to just traditional topics, we’ll be deprived of a full understanding of issues that plague our generation.” Many students agree with Urrutia’s stance, saying that the books don’t offer any information they haven’t already read about on the Internet, heard about in music, or even witnessed in movies. To the students that I’ve talked to, the whole situation seems a little bit ridiculous.

Two students in particular, seniors Isaiah Zukowski and Neil Ren, have taken their beliefs on the subject to the next level. They both spoke at the school board meeting on Monday, citing the importance to students of keeping these books on the reading list. In addition, they’ve created an online petition opposing the removal of these books. The petition states:

We, the undersigned, ask the East Penn School District to continue to uphold the intellectual freedom of the students at Emmaus High School. The school board should not remove the novels "Prep" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," marked clearly as recommended and not as required, from their respective summer reading lists at Emmaus High School. To do so would violate the rights of the students, led by their parents, to pursue an interest in a wide range of literary works at their own discretion. 

We recognize that parents ultimately have the right to choose what is best for their child, but we challenge the actions taken by a few parents in an effort to censor the reading choices of all students of a variety of backgrounds and circumstances.

Since its creation less than a week ago, the petition has already accumulated 125 signatures from students of Emmaus High School, both current and former, and Emmaus community members. According to Zukowski, the motive behind starting the petition was “to make it clear that students were not going to be passive observers of this situation and that we want to be actively involved in our education.”

The petition is on its way to becoming a sort of rallying point for students, letting those who wouldn’t otherwise get involved express their opinion and be a part of something that the average high school student doesn’t usually get to participate in. As it grows in size it’s not just a means of students supporting their beliefs, but also a way of “sticking it to the man,” if you will. Students are using this petition as an opportunity to express the fact that their beliefs should be considered in this case, too. It’s not just about the upset parents anymore. Students are now just as interested and just as capable of making their opinions known as the adults. Zukowski says “I think our petition is making it clear that the angry parents who started this issue are not speaking for the whole, that this is very much a divisive issue -- these parents are not acting in the best interest of every student.”

Although ultimately the final decision on whether to keep or ban the books from the summer reading list lies with a designated committee, there’s no doubt that the students at EHS won’t let this issue go silently. Whether it’s through signing petitions, making Facebook statuses, or spending three hours at a school board meeting on a Monday night, the students of Emmaus are doing all they can to make sure that their intellectual and educational liberties are respected and that the power to choose what books they read lies in their hands.

Chrissy Cilento, a senior at Emmaus High School, plans to study journalism in college. She is a periodic contributor to Patch.

Walt Disney September 25, 2012 at 11:44 PM
It's important to be clear about what we want. We want the book Prep taken off the Summer Reading list because contains graphic descriptions of sexual interactions among teenagers. It's that simple. Moving forward, the book can stay in the library but kids should only read it if they happen upon the book accidentally. But we will need to clear up a few other issues: 1. Is it okay for the librarian to recommend this book as a good read. Can a teacher suggest reading it to a student? 2. Can the book be put on display with other popular contemporary works of fiction? 3. Can students select this book for in class book reports? What if that report includes an oral presentation about the book? Is that allowed? 4. Can teachers read this book or be seen reading this book in class? We have to be clear otherwise valueless liberal weirdos will corner us on this one.
for real September 26, 2012 at 12:21 AM
So the argument here is that 2 porn books should be removed as choices from a reading list, but allowed to stay in the library. Say what? If it is porn it should be removed period. You see porn has no place in school. The truth of the matter here is that it is not porn because it does not arouse. Although since I now own Prep I was considering cancelling my Penthouse subscription. This is really stupid! And if this was really an attempt to remove a book from a list that people are concerned about, why go public with the concern? I'm sure every curious teen is checking this out now. They will all want to read this next year during the summer. Parents are going to have trouble getting them to read the other choices. Thanks idiots!
tamarya September 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I am going to give my honest opinion since me and you seem on the same page with this. When my kids are on their 9th and 10th grade summer break they will be 15 and 16, if especially when on the 10th grade summer break at 16 if I still have to shield them from books I failed as a parent. Because they only got 2 more yrs at that time till adult age and if they are not responsible at 16 they will not be at 18 so I failed, because even at 15 they are no longer protected by the state because they can handle themselves, but if I cannot put a book in their hand because they will act out I failed.
for real September 26, 2012 at 01:33 AM
There is no suggested or recomended list. Stop using that language as if somebody is saying "Hey kid we think it's a good idea to read this" It's just a SUMMER READING LIST. http://www.eastpennsd.org/ehs/forms/Summer%20Reading/Incoming%209th%20Grade%20Summer%20Reading%20List%205.22.12%20FINAL.pdf
for real September 26, 2012 at 01:34 AM
no suggested books or recomended lists. Sorry nothing like that exists. Try Summer reading list with between 15-20 choices.

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