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'Porn' No Longer on Emmaus High Summer Reading Lists

Emmaus High School Principal Dave Piperato tells East Penn School Board members that he and the parent who challenged two books on the Emmaus High School summer reading have reached an agreement.

Emmaus High School Principal David Piperato told the East Penn Board of School Directors last night that a verdict has been reached regarding two books from the EHS summer reading list some parents considered to be potentially “pornographic” in nature.

The summer reading program at Emmaus High School entered the limelight in September when two parents came before the school board to voice their concerns about the graphic sexual and drug-related content of two books on the list -- Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” which was on the 10th grade list, and “Prep,” a 9th-grade selection written by Curtis Sittenfeld.

A subsequent written challenge to both books under District Policy 109 by a third parent touched off a formal district review process.

The book at the center of the East Penn controversy, “Prep,” will no longer be a 9th-grade summer reading list selection, Piperato told the board. Instead it will be added to the 12th grade Advanced Placement reading list – part of what is called the teacher book bag – that Piperato emphasized is a collection of optional reading material.

“It was agreed that that book should be moved up in terms of grade level,” Piperato said. “The content is too mature for eighth-graders moving into ninth grade. No student will be required to read that book.”

In addition, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” will no longer be on the English department’s summer reading list, Piperato explained, since the curriculum has shifted in the direction of teaching non-fiction works in the classroom. The summer reading list will contain only fiction books.

He did point out that the social studies program at the high school has expressed an interest in teaching non-fiction works.

After the meeting, Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger said it is unlikely that “Acid Test” will make its way to a summer reading list in the social studies department since its subject matter does not fit with the subject matter being taught in social studies.

Piperato said that after several rounds of meetings with the parent who had challenged the books and the English department, he felt that not only were the parent’s concerns with the specific summer reading books addressed, but the summer reading program improved in the process.

For starters, Piperato said, the books on the summer reading program will now be reviewed on an annual basis, both in terms of the number of students selecting each book and the student work being generated.

”The program will not be stagnant,” Piperato said. “We are going to ask ‘are students picking the books and how often they are being used?’ And, those books not being used or providing the work that the teacher asked for will be cycled off.”

Plus, Piperato told the board, the high school also determined that “some of the warnings for books with mature content need to be a bit stronger and that the reading list itself and those warnings need to be a little more available to parents.”

Piperato listed several ways the high school will alert parents that the summer reading list has been released, including telephone blasts and a link on the landing page of the EHS website.

“This way parents can click through the reading list and make an informed decision about what book they want their child to read,” he said.

Both “Acid Test” and “Prep” are still available in the Emmaus High School library.

for real December 11, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Glad the high school principal worked this out. I checked Prep out and it is not even close to being pornography. Unfortunately local political agendas demanded othewise.
Rebecca Essig December 11, 2012 at 01:06 PM
They should be ashamed of themselves! There's nothing wrong with either of these books. If parents read the entire book not just one line they would have seen it was taken out of context. Parents need to get their heads out of theirs asses! All because of 3 parents what about the hundreds of other parents that have no problem with it. What happened to the review panel they were going to form - I was one of the 1st to volunteer & I never got a call back. Once again I am ashamed to be part of the East Penn School District.
ted.dobracki December 11, 2012 at 02:02 PM
@Rebecca - It never reached the review panel stage. The EPSD policy says that the process is that if the school principal and the petitioner reach an agreement, then it doesn't get escalated to a later step where the panel that you volunteered gets convened. As far as "Prep" is concerned, while participating in the emmaus.patch.com book reading group in October, I found the book quite tedious with a relatively disapointing lack of message. Another reader suggested that some student-readers might need the "reward" of the salacious part to be motivated to muddle through the rest of the book. I did find that in just the first 100 pages (well before the salacious part), there were more than 20 separate occasions of curse words or sexual references and innuendo, before I stopped count. Documentation is available upon request.
Lynn Faust December 11, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Congratulations to those who fought so hard for the moral welfare of our students. (parents and Board Members) There are so many extremely good books for our students to read. The summer reading list will now be improved as well as parents being informed meaning more parent-student involvement.
KilgoreTrout December 11, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Congratulations for continuing the reputation of this area as being small-minded, insular and backwards. When will we stop teaching evolution? That's got to be right around the corner ! These kids get exposed to worse on Cable and Network TV, let alone what they encounter on the web. You cannot isolate them or protect them from the world. This is a poor decision and reflects poorly on our community, a shame.
An interested bystander December 11, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Heck with cable and network, they get exposed to worse when they get on the bus as first graders. I hope parents who took such an interest here take as much an interest in their kid's homework and keeping them off drugs, a big problem in Emmaus that no one wants to talk about.
Maynard G Krebs December 11, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Great. Show the kids how some people can ban books that they don't want other people to read. A teachable moment.
optimist December 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM
This has little to do with books or students. Any concerns about what is on the summer reading list can simply be addressed through policy 109. Fill out a form and hand it in. To circumvent that process by making speeches at school board meetings is all about elections. If you check out the minutes of the school board meeting where most of the speeches took place you will notice at least 2 of the speakers do not live in the district. Mr. Adams has spoken out against other books around the valley as well as written articles in the Lehigh Valley commentator. http://www.eastpennsd.org/School%20Board/_boardminutes/2012/sept242012.pdf http://bethlehem.patch.com/articles/nickel-and-dimed-revisited
Jeff Lotte December 11, 2012 at 11:01 PM
You are correct optimist, it doesn't. Children are gonna read and do what they are gonna do, our societys lowering moral standards are gonna make sure of that. It does have to do with the school district promoting these books ahead of thousands of others that do not have such explicit sexual content. Nobody went before the board saying anything about banning anything, I and my fiance went there asking them to stop promoting such materials to kids. The 3 ring circus about banning books was brought to you by the media. I'm happy about Dr. Piperatos decision. I have yet to get an answer about whom is responsible for promoting such material over thousands of better choices. Maybe it is political as Mr. Ballard suggested at that meeting, maybe somebody gets something out of promoting material from certain publishers. I guess we'll find out, that question will have to be revisited.
optimist December 11, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Jeff why not just file a 109 form? What prompted you to go speak? Most people with a concern at a school call and see what can be done. Of course you have every rt. to speak. Just curious. I disagree about promotion. Having choices on a list is not promotion. Also curious, would you get rid of Shakespeare since it has violence and sex? Concerning the Grapes of Wrath: Tom and Casy engage in a number of crude sexual discussions. (One such conversation begins after the men have witnessed some dogs mating. The description is fairly graphic). Tom sometimes refers to prostitutes he has known, and Casy talks about "screwin'" girls when they were "full of the Sperit [sic]." Steinbeck suggests that Tom's brother, Al, enjoys frequent sexual relationships with girls he meets in the camps. What should we do about grapes of Wrath?
Gwen Mitchell December 12, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Why does anyone need to know who recommended these books be put on the list in the first place?? Is that relevant?? Whether or not a book is considered a "good read" is a matter of opinion. Some of us like Stephen King while others like John Grisham. Are you planning on punishing that teacher or teachers that recommended it?? If you had filled out the form, hundreds in this community never would have read the books - including the many, many students at Emmaus High School. My daughter is a current student and most of her friends couldn't wait to read the books to find out what all the hoopla was about. Maybe its a good thing they were removed because most of the students affected have already read them anyway.
LoMac Res December 12, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Prep and Acid Test are outdated and lazy choices. I defend the right of teachers to select challenging and edgy books for summer reading list, but please consult a librarian who is enthusiastic and up on contemporary literature to put together a modern reading list for you, EHS.
Garrett Rhoads December 12, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Did you actually read page 315?
Garrett Rhoads December 12, 2012 at 04:34 AM
My children do not get "exposed to worse" because my wife and I monitor what they watch on TV and what they do on the internet. I know and understand that not all parents have this luxury of time, but my wife & I chose to live a smaller lifestyle so that we could parent our children instead of leaving it to the entertainment industry. To make the argument that we should just "give up" and let pop culture raise our kids is the lazy way out. I spoke out against these books being on a recommended reading list, but I also made my argument AGAINST banning these books from any library. If parents want their kids to read adult material (PREP is sold in the ADULT FICTION section of the bookstore), then so be it. I have no right to tell them they can't. I do agree with Ms. Slivka that our kids should not be deliberately exposed to such controversial material. I have read this book cover to cover. Have you?
Garrett Rhoads December 12, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I was one of the parents who spoke out against "the promotion of the book on the recommended reading list", NOT to ban the book from the library! The school district, on it's own, decided to make this decision with NO INPUT from the public other than their conversations with Ms. Slifka. Anyone saying that this decision made INTERNALLY by the district itself is some part of a political conspiracy is just looking to point political fingers themselves. Get over it. I am all for free speech, but we do have maintain some level of minimal decency for our children. Otherwise, we would be letting Jr. High Schoolers check out Playboys and Hustlers.
Garrett Rhoads December 12, 2012 at 04:51 AM
I say Amen to LoMacRes. Recommended reading lists should be continually reviewed and vetted by faculty with parental input (NOT say-so). There are so many worthwhile literary works produced on a regular basis, it would be refreshing to see the list change with the times. As someone who wanted the two books in question to be promoted to older students (not banned), I would love to see new works introduced. A healthy perspective. Thank you LoMacRes.
optimist December 12, 2012 at 05:52 AM
No such thing as a recomended reading list. The district does have a summer reading list. Why not just file a 109 challenge? Why make speeches unless you are running for office?
careless fills December 12, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Optimist is correct - it is not a recommended reading list - instead, it is actually a required reading list! A student MUST read two of the selections from the list. If it was a recommended reading list, students could read other books for assignment credit, but that doesn't seemt to be the choice here - they must pick books from this list. Fortunately, the problem is resolved. Good night!

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