BCSC votes to keep challenged book in East High School library

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. school board candidate for District 1 Jason Major speaks during an IUPUC Office of Student Affairs candidate forum at the Columbus Learning Center in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2022.

COLUMBUS, Ind. –Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board members voted 5-1 to keep a challenged book in the library, with board member Logan Schulz as the only board member to vote no to “People Kill People” by author Ellen Hopkins.

Board member Jason Major, who filed the complaint against the book, recused himself from the vote.

Schulz said this morning that he would never vote to remove a book, but was voting to move the book to a status that parental consent was required to check the book out.

The motion that was voted on was worded as “determination on library book.”

The request for the review of the book was filed by District 1 board member 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.

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.

Here is the Board’s determination about the book, which was voted on March. 4.

Mr. Jason Major submitted a Request for Review of Materials or Course Content (“Request”)
regarding the book People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins. Following the decision of an
evaluation committee to retain the book in the Columbus East High School Media Center, Mr. Major appealed that decision to the Board of School Trustees of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (“Board”).
The Board has conducted its review pursuant to Policy 9130, “Public Complaints and Concerns.”
The Board, having reviewed the original Request, the determination of the evaluation committee,
and the book, now makes the following findings:
1. The Board is to determine whether the book is “obscene” or “harmful to minors” as the
terms are defined in Indiana Code 35-49-2-1 and Indiana Code 35-49-2-2 respectively.
2. A book is considered “obscene” under the relevant definition if:
a. the average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that the
dominant theme of the matter or performance, taken as a whole, appeals to the
prurient interest in sex;
b. the matter or performance depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual
conduct; AND
c. the matter or performance, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic,
political, or scientific value.

3. A book is considered “harmful to minors” under the relevant definition if:
a. it describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement,
or sado-masochistic abuse;
b. considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors;
c. it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole
with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors; AND
d. considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value
for minors.

4. No challenged material may be removed solely because it presents ideas that may be
unpopular or offensive to some, without it being “obscene” or “harmful to minors” as the
same are defined in Indiana Code.
5. People Kill People is the story of several teenagers living in Tucson, Arizona, their pasts,
and the circumstances that may motivate them to contemplate violence.
6. The Request identifies several parts of the book as explicit and problematic.
7. The author dedication for People Kill People states “[t]his book is dedicated to the far too
many victims of gun violence, and to the loved ones who grieve for them.”
8. The “Author’s Note” which serves as a preface to the book states:
a. “[W]e must address the gun violence problem in the United States.”
b. “I felt it was important to try and understand why someone might be compelled to
pull the trigger.”
c. “The characters you’ll meet in these pages have powerful life situations driving
them in negative directions.”

9. The dominant theme of the book is an exploration of violence, specifically gun violence,
and its causes.
10. The dominant theme of the book, taken as a whole, does not appeal to a prurient interest in sex of adults or minors.
11. The book, taken as a whole, does not lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific
value. Firearm violence is a topic of serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific
discussion. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[i]n 2022, there were
more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States according to provisional
mortality data – that’s about 132 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day.
More than half of firearm-related deaths were suicides and more than 4 out of every 10
were firearm homicides.” CDC Fast Facts: Firearm Violence and Injury Prevention.
12. The topic is relevant to minors and of serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to them. Per the CDC Fast Facts, “Taking into account all types of firearm injuries—
including homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries — firearm injuries were among
the 5 leading causes of death for people ages 1-44 in the United States in 2022, and the
leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1-19.”


After reviewing this matter, the Board concludes that People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins is not “obscene” or “harmful to minors” as the terms are defined in Indiana Code. The decision of the evaluation committee is upheld and the book may remain on the shelves of the Columbus East High School Media Center.

SO DETERMINED THIS 4th day of March, 2024.


For the complete story, see Wednesday’s Republic.