Teacher Faces Possible Criminal Charges for Reading List

  1. Texas Teacher Placed on Leave After Complaint About Reading List; Town Rallies to His Defense

    By ANGELA K. BROWN Associated Press Writer
    TUSCOLA, Texas Oct 22, 2007 (AP)

    A popular English teacher has been placed on paid leave and faces possible criminal charges after a student's parents complained to police that a ninth-grade class reading list contained a book about a murderer who has sex with his victims' bodies.
    Kaleb Tierce, 25, is being investigated for allegedly distributing harmful material to a minor after the student selected Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God" off the list and read it.

    Tierce, a third-year teacher and assistant football coach at Jim Ned High School, has not been arrested, but his case has caused an uproar in this West Texas town of 700 people. Last week, more than 120 parents and students crowded into a meeting where the school board voted to keep Tierce on paid leave.

    Most parents say Tierce should be reinstated, regardless of whether the book is too graphic for teens.

    "He's a great teacher and coach and motivates the kids like no one else can," said Chris Garcia, whose daughter was in one of Tierce's classes. "If you're trying to protect your kids from things in books, you may as well turn off the TV and video games. You try to protect them as much as you can, but these days kids are just exposed to so much."
    Tierce, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, declined to comment when asked by The Associated Press about the allegations.

    Some students and athletes have worn armbands to school and football games emblazoned with Tierce's initials, hiding them under clothing. Others said teens were meeting secretly to decide how to help the teacher they believe did nothing wrong.
    "He was the only one who understood us," said Patrisha Ramirez, 15. "He would joke around. He would make English interesting, for once."

    In Tuscola, south of Abilene, "Child of God" was on a list of titles compiled by all of the high school English teachers for a pre-Advanced Placement class.

    Although administrators' approval was not required for the list, school officials have since removed the book because they deemed it inappropriate for ninth-graders.
  2. Approved Book cont'd . . .

    The book tells the story of a town's outsider who is falsely accused of rape, then begins killing people. The character ends up living in a cave with his victims' decomposing bodies. The 1974 novel "plumbs the depths of human degradation," according to its back cover.

    The parents of one ninth-grade student filed a police report on Oct. 1 with the Taylor County Sheriff's Office earlier this month. Before contacting law enforcement officials, they complained to the teacher and principal, said district Superintendent Kent LeFevre, who declined to reveal their discussions.

    The superintendent placed Tierce on administrative leave on Oct. 9.
    Sheriff's Sgt. John Cummins said the case will be turned over to the district attorney once the investigation is complete. Distributing harmful material to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
    Book controversies in schools and libraries are nothing new, but it's rare for teachers to be disciplined over them.

    In 2005, a seventh-grade teacher in Grand Rapids, Mich., was suspended and later transferred to another school after a parent complained about a classroom reading of "Telephone Man," a story about prejudice containing racial slurs.

    Parents have sought to ban various books, including John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, as well as books on Cuba or gay penguins, according to the American Library Association. Last year, schools or public libraries received nearly 550 requests to remove books, the Chicago-based association said.

    "When you get to book cases where someone has a difference of opinion, you have to honor these things," said former teacher Linda Bridges, who is president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, a 57,000-member union, of which Tierce is not a member. "But if a book has been vetted and approved by the district, then the teacher has done nothing wrong."

  3. I don't understand why the teacher was blamed when this book was on the reading list and I don't understand why the parents didn't just deal with the issue of their child reading that book.

    They should have taken it up with the school board, but to ask for criminal charges to be brought against the teacher is just crazy.

    Before I was old enough to get into R-rated movies, I'd have my dad buy me the ticket when he dropped me off at the theatre. If I wanted to see something he didn't approve of, he wouldn't have bought me the ticket.

    Say Lolita was on my ninth grade reading list. Say I chose that book. Say my parents thought I was too young to read Lolita. They would tell me to choose another book.

    I only use Lolita as an example because I recently read it. I was talking to him about the content and I brought up the question of how he'd react if I had read it when I was sixteen. He told me he wouldn't have been pleased.

    That sparked a discussion where I originally thought it was ridiculous that parents want to control what their kids read, but then I drew the conclusion that there's a difference between a thirteen year old reading War and Peace and reading The Story of O.
  4. Talk about overreacting!

    To be completely honest, I don't think my parents would have been happy with me reading a book like that when I was in ninth grade. However, couldn't that have just gone to the teacher, explained there concerns, and yes, perhaps get it removed from the reading list.

    Forced leave and possible criminal charges?? A bit OTT!
  5. You know what? Scratch that. I was going to say that if sets the precedence then parents can ask for criminal charges filed against teachers assigning their students works of fiction that portray moments in history (Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer) and actual historical events (The Holocaust).

    I can't, in good conscience, stand by that thought.

    You're comparing Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and The Holocaust to a work of fiction that talks about acts of necrophilia.
  6. i think huck finn was banned in some USA public libraries...but don't quote me on that one.
    maybe they should consider banning shakespeare: hamlet is guilty of matricide, there are some cross dressing characters (i think it is in the twelth night), interacial relationships (othelo and desdemona). and the old testament isn't a very easy read either, didn't jezabel gets eaten by dogs, molten gold poured down people's throats for idol worshipping? murdering children?
    and yes, i think they are books that aren't suitable for kids (american psycho comes to mind) but can someone explain me where is the harm on "of mice and men"? we shouldn't let a teenager read "anna karenina" because it is the story of an adulterous woman who ends killing herself. and the list could go on forever
    this reminds me of the burning of books that the nazis considered "inmoral" either because it didn't suit their political and racial views or simply because they were written by jewish writers.
    brave new world...
  7. i don't think libraries ban books... mine posts a "banned books" list to encourage people to read them. librarians are big supporters of anything that is written, not censorship. huck finn is banned at many high schools tho. this is a sad situation tho... there was a teacher in indiana who got fired for saying "i honk for peace"
  8. I agree with caitlin, The book was on the reading list to begin with. Besides, as a parent of a pre-teen I worry more about what they do and read on the internet than what they read for school projects. I am sure if this book was on the reading list it was for a purpose, teachers or however does the every year learning program (whatever its called) are experts, they wouldn't just put literacy that they know its gonna mess with our children head.

    TV show horrible movies, that kids have access to, like Hostel, Saw, Resident evil, etc. They are way more graphic than books. They play all this bloody video games where they kill and steal from people. If somehing, books are at least estimulating their minds. This is just my opinion.
  9. i used to have an old edition of huck finn where in the prologue the translator (it was in spanish) mentioned that it was banned in some southern libraries...it was an amazing good translation as i found out when i read it in english.
    this situation regarding the banning of huck finn was before segregation ended.
    and also the vatican has a list of "forbidden" books.
    "to kill a mockingbird" and "1984" were banned in hannover's (USA not germany) public school libraries and, huck finn is the number fourth the most banned books in the USA...this in a 1994 publication.:wtf:
  10. What is with schools these days?! I really don't understand why they are overreacting so severly.

  11. I feel really bad for teachers nowadays...they always have to deal with parents critizing every aspect of teaching. Let it be..it's just a book!!!
  12. Wow - my DD's school has their list of readings for English courses, but have a disclaimer that any book deemed to be offensive or against religious beliefs can be substituted with parent's written request and justification.

    Parents can certainly over-react, but filing criminal charges? Are you kidding? What's next ? Scary.

    All I know is this makes me quite thankful I work in higher education where academic freedom allows us to choose to assign and teach content within the discipline without state or parental approval. :yes:
  13. I agree, filing the charges is too much. The teacher doesn't deserved it. There are much better ways to handle this situation.
  14. wow, that's intense. i can understand parents becoming upset.. but this is pretty extreme.
  15. I can't even find the words to express how ridiculous this is.

    If a parent has an objection to their child reading a particular book...fine, that's your right as a parent. Make arrangements for your child to read an alternate book. I can't imagine any teacher not accomodating this.

    The frustratingly ironic thing is....often these are parents who feel that their beliefs are being infringed upon....when what they end up doing with THEIR actions is infringing upon the beliefs and rights of others.