Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a paragraph on East Penn School Board President Charles Ballard's reasons for dismissing the motion before the school board last night. The original version did not provide that information.
This will not be the last the East Penn Board of School Directors hears of controversial Emmaus High School suggested summer reading selections “Prep” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
The board was expected to vote last night on a motion to eliminate Tom Wolfe’s “Acid Test,” which is on the 10th grade summer reading list, and “Prep,” a 9th-grade selection written by Curtis Sittenfeld, as summer reading options. However, Board President Charles Ballard dismissed the motion for procedural reasons without giving the board a chance to discuss it.
The two books became the topic of conversation in East Penn after the board’s Sept. 10 meeting, when two parents came before the board to complain about the “pornographic” nature of the works. At that meeting, School Director Julian Stolz made a motion that the board remove the books from the suggested summer reading list.
In a nutshell, Ballard said that the board has an official policy for addressing curriculum challenges, known as Policy 109, and the board needed to follow that procedure in evaluating the summer reading books. Since Stolz’s motion did not originate with a Policy 109 challenge, Ballard said, he was dismissing that motion as “improper” and “null and void.”
The main thrust of a lenghty statement by Ballard is that his reason for dismissing the motion stems from a desire to protect East Penn from potential legal action for violating its own procedure. He cited a past Supreme Court ruling in a case in which a school board removed a book from the summer reading list in his explanation. In that case, the Supreme Court set up a three-pronged test for boards to use in pulling a book.
But last night will not be the last time the board will be faced with a decision on the two summer reading books, Ballard said. Just before Monday night’s board meeting, the school district received a written challenge to both "Prep" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," in accordance with Policy 109, which will spark an official committee review of the works and a recommendation to the board.
Once the board has that committee recommendation in hand, it can then make a ruling on the challenge, Ballard explained.