After months of contention, the board of the Glendale Unified School District Tuesday agreed to allow Truman Capote’s "In Cold Blood" to be taught in the school’s AP English classes.
The book was brought to the school board for a routine approval by a Glendale High School AP English teacher during the 2010-2011 school year. The school district’s PTA reviewed the proposal over the summer and recommended against the book.
The proposal was then put under preliminary review at their meeting on September 13, said Glendale Unified public information officer Steven Frasher.
"The thought amongst the reluctant members of the board was that it’s a grim story, a somewhat graphically told story, by 1960s standards, that they felt they did not want to subject students to, while recognizing the discussion value the teacher intended to address," said Frasher.
At Tuesday evening’s board meeting, four board members voted in favor of the book, while one member, Mary Boger, chose to abstain, Frasher said.
"She essentially felt that young people are subjected to enough violent images in other arenas of their life," Frasher said. "The school curriculum didn’t necessarily had to be one of those places."
"In Cold Blood” ranks 53rd on the Radcliffe's Rival 100 Best Novels List. It among at least 46 classics targeted for bans in schools, according to the American Library Assocation's Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Barbara Jones, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom, says she’s all too familiar with the issue of books getting banned in school districts.
“I think good books, true classics, make us uncomfortable,” Jones said. “That’s what a good book does, it challenges us to think about ideas we’ve never thought of, or experience lives we’ve never lived, or to know people we’ve never known. These things can make us uncomfortable. And I think uncomfortable books get challenged.”
One issue some school boards may have with classics is the sensitive subject matter they often present, Jones said.
“We respect that there is risk," she said. Jones said she's seen success when a school board and administrators sit down with students and parents and address concerns about touchy themes such as violence, sex, drugs and suicide.
"Rather than ban the book, discuss the issue,” she said.
When asked about the community’s reaction to the outcome of the vote, Frasher said he didn't expect any backlash from the school board's decision.
"This discussion takes place in an open forum so we can look at things from all sides." Frasher said. "And I think it was a good reminder to the public that that’s what they’re there for.”