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Five Things to Know About East Penn 'Porn' Challenges

Superintendent Thomas L. Seidenberger last night updated the East Penn Board of School Directors on the status of the current book challenges in the district and set the record straight on past book objections.

Two books on the Emmaus High School summer reading list -- "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld and Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" -- became the focus of attention this fall when a parent came to a September meeting of the East Penn Board of School Directors to raise concern about the "pornographic" nature of the works.

That initial public criticism of the books sparked a frenzy of activity in the district, ultimately resulting in a formal challenge to both books under an established district procedure known as "Policy 109."

Last night, Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger took a moment during his report to the East Penn Board of School Directors to update the board on the status of current Policy 109 challenges and to set the record straight on past book challenges in the district.

  1. Step 1 in a Policy 109 book challenge is not the formation of a committee to review the book as people have been led to believe, Seidenberger said. The first step, he said, is working with the person who submitted the challenge to see if a mutually agreeable solution can be reached.
  2. The current Policy 109 challenges against “Prep” and "Acid Test” are at Step 1, Seidenberger emphasized, meaning that the district is engaged in conversations with the parent who submitted the Policy 109 challenge. Seidenberger said that the matter may be settled by the end of the week and that he will report to the board about what conclusion is reached.
  3. Calling it in part “a failure of institutional memory,” Seidenberger said that a challenge was never in fact made against “Acid Test” as originally stated. “I need to correct for the record what the board already knows,” he said. A citizen did “mention” the book at a board meeting, but no formal challenge was ever filed, he said.
  4. Instead, he said, a challenge was made in 2008-2009 to a book called “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers due to language in the book, including the word “Jesus.” That challenge failed.
  5. Following committee review in 2011, “Prep,” was pulled from the shelves of the Eyer Middle School library. Part of the rationale for removing the book from the Eyer library, Seidenberger explained, was the fact that “Prep” was not on the shelves of the Lower Macungie Middle School Library. The book was deemed appropriate for the library at Emmaus High School.

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