BCSC board to consider book complaint Monday

Mike Wolanin | The Republic An exterior view of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation administration building in Columbus, Ind., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board members will make a determination about whether to keep a book in school libraries on Monday night.

The request for the review of the book was filed by District 1 board member Jason Major in January of 2023 and a committee decided in March that the book was appropriate to stay in the library at Columbus East High School.

Major filed the complaint for “People Kill People” by Ellen Hopkins, a New York Times bestselling book which publisher Simon and Schuster describes as “a compelling and complex novel about gun violence.”

BCSC policy 9130 outlines a process for a parent or guardian of a student, or community member living within the corporation to submit a request to remove material they believe to be obscene or harmful to minors, as defined by Indiana Code.

The policy allows the requester to appeal the committee’s decision, which is what has happened in this instance.

The complaint centers around pages 138 and 139 of the book. In a copy of the request for review Major wrote in the section asking why the book is objectionable: “In these pages there was a description of an act of rape of a child (Male to Boy Pedophilia).”

Major’s goes on: “Additionally, the cover depicts a gun and the inside of the cover states: ‘Six teens. Six reasons to pull the trigger. Someone will fire. And someone will die. Guns just make it easier.’ Between the pedophilia and suggestive nature of gun violence, this is the reason for request of removal of this book.”

Major checked “no” on the section asking if he had “read, viewed, or listened to the complete work.”

During the Jan. 23 school board meeting when the appeal began, Major mentioned that he would be open to pulling his request if the board enacted a policy that would create a separate space of the library for books that parents would have to opt-in for their child to view.

School officials at East decided to keep the book writing: “While Mr. Major’s concern is noted, we have decided to keep the book in the collection due to its overall themes and values. The book is a cautionary tale about choices related to guns, racism, and relationships. It does not normalize the issues but instead, gives insight into various views and opinions related (to) the timely issues of immigration, racism, and gun control.”

A six person committee reaffirmed that decision on March 10, 2023.

The board has three options on Monday night:

  • Accept the committee’s recommendation to keep the book
  • Deny the committee’s recommendation and remove the book
  • Table the matter for further discussion

When asked if Major would have to recuse himself during the vote, BCSC attorney Michael McIver provided the following statement: “Any procedural questions will be dealt with at the board meeting. Generally speaking, board members do not vote on matters that they have a personal interest in.”