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Big Walnut school board votes against banning controversial book

The board voted 4-2 to support the superintendent's recommendation to keep "Looking For Alaska" in the district.

SUNBURY, Ohio — The Big Walnut school board voted against banning a book that has been challenged across the country for its content. 

The board voted four to two in favor of the superintendent's recommendation to keep the book "Looking For Alaska" in the district. 

10TV received a statement from the superintendent, Ryan McLane, on Thursday, which said the book has been used as a curriculum resource in the high school for years and the book was one of the options students could choose from. The full statement can be read below.

The superintendent said the book was one of 20 books a community member challenged.  

Once a book is challenged it’s then sent to a committee for review made up of school leaders.  

The book talks about topics like drug use, sex and suicide. 

At Thursday’s meeting, those who wanted to book banned said by banning the book, it would’ve kept what they called inappropriate material away from students.  

“Just because they have access to these books doesn’t mean that they should have them. Not every child is ready nor mature enough for those conversations,” said one woman.  

Meanwhile, those who wanted the book to remain in the school said if the book were to be banned, it could’ve hindered their learning.   

“Having a chance to see acted through literature, allows us to give through to the action,” said one student.  

About 100 students walked out of Big Walnut High School on Thursday over the proposal. The district said no one is required to read the book, and it's just an option for students. 

Superintendent McLane's statement:

"Looking for Alaska has been used as a curriculum resource in our high school English class for years.  This year it was one of the options students could choose from.  It was not required reading for any student. Looking for Alaska was one of over 20 books a member of our community has formally challenged.  When a book gets challenged, our practice in compliance with board policy is to create a committee to review the book.  That committee consists of the assistant superintendent, building principal, the district's media specialist, a teacher who teaches the class, a representative of the Sunbury Community Library, and two parents of students currently in the class in which the book is being used.  That committee then makes a recommendation to me.  That recommendation was unanimous to allow Looking for Alaska to remain in our high school library as well as to be a curriculum resource in the high school English class.  As a result, that was my recommendation to the board of education in November.

As part of our district's policy, that community member had the right to appeal the decision to the board of education. The board will vote tonight to determine if Looking for Alaska will remain in our school.

A student led walkout did occur this afternoon.   The students conducted their protest within the parameters of board policy regarding such demonstrations, and no student was disciplined as a result of their participation.  In walking the building, I observed students who chose not to participate in class receiving instruction from their teachers." 

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