SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Springfield Public Schools has formed a committee to review an award winning novel with themes that include police brutality and racism after parents and a lawmaker complained to the superintendent that it wasn't appropriate.
“The Hate U Give” is less than a year old and aimed at young adults, but Angie Thomas’ book was on the New York Times best seller list.
Some parents of an eighth grade class at Reed Middle School told the school district that they weren’t warned about the adult themes. The district says permission slips were sent home, but admitted that they were sent too late.
“If there's any question about sensitive content, there needs to be an opportunity for parents to opt in or opt out,” SPS spokesperson Stephen Hall said. “Whether that be a book, a piece of educational curriculum, an assembly, that opportunity should be given to parents.”
In the book, a black teenager witnesses a police officer kills her unarmed friend. The opening pages of the book depict a sexually charged teen party.
Missouri Representative Sonya Anderson (R. Dist. 131) says she called the superintendent and demanded something be done, "The fact that the superintendent and school district would allow this vulgar, anti-police propaganda to be taught to middle schoolers without parental consent or knowledge raises more concerns about what else is being taught to our students that we don’t know about."
“I wasn't expecting the language or the content, especially since the book is supposed to be about such a difficult political issue right now,” Reed Middle School parent Michele Rutayuga said.
“It's got very adult themes,” Chris Williams, another parent, said. “After reading the first page it's definitely something that would be R rated, I would say, in a movie.”
Not all parents want the book banned permanently. Amy Petitt says children need to read books like this.
“I think it's ridiculous,” Petitt said. “I think at eighth grade the kids are old enough to decide what they do and don't want to read. And, I think that they should be exposed to all types of books, literature. A lot of things from our past aren't pretty, but they need to be exposed to these things.”
The committee review could take 6-8 weeks. Hall says that four other books have gone through this process since 2008, but all four of them were allowed back into the classroom.
“They're looking for the full context of the literary work,” Hall said. “They will read the book in its entirety, they will consider the themes that are a part of that, and then they will also consider the grade level.”