Jul 29, 2014
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'Porn' No Longer on Emmaus High Summer Reading Lists

Emmaus High School Principal Dave Piperato tells East Penn School Board members that he and the parent who challenged two books on the Emmaus High School summer reading have reached an agreement.

'Porn' No Longer on Emmaus High Summer Reading Lists

Emmaus High School Principal David Piperato told the East Penn Board of School Directors last night that a verdict has been reached regarding two books from the EHS summer reading list some parents considered to be potentially “pornographic” in nature.

The summer reading program at Emmaus High School entered the limelight in September when two parents came before the school board to voice their concerns about the graphic sexual and drug-related content of two books on the list -- Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” which was on the 10th grade list, and “Prep,” a 9th-grade selection written by Curtis Sittenfeld.

A subsequent written challenge to both books under District Policy 109 by a third parent touched off a formal district review process.

The book at the center of the East Penn controversy, “Prep,” will no longer be a 9th-grade summer reading list selection, Piperato told the board. Instead it will be added to the 12th grade Advanced Placement reading list – part of what is called the teacher book bag – that Piperato emphasized is a collection of optional reading material.

“It was agreed that that book should be moved up in terms of grade level,” Piperato said. “The content is too mature for eighth-graders moving into ninth grade. No student will be required to read that book.”

In addition, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” will no longer be on the English department’s summer reading list, Piperato explained, since the curriculum has shifted in the direction of teaching non-fiction works in the classroom. The summer reading list will contain only fiction books.

He did point out that the social studies program at the high school has expressed an interest in teaching non-fiction works.

After the meeting, Superintendent of Schools Thomas L. Seidenberger said it is unlikely that “Acid Test” will make its way to a summer reading list in the social studies department since its subject matter does not fit with the subject matter being taught in social studies.

Piperato said that after several rounds of meetings with the parent who had challenged the books and the English department, he felt that not only were the parent’s concerns with the specific summer reading books addressed, but the summer reading program improved in the process.

For starters, Piperato said, the books on the summer reading program will now be reviewed on an annual basis, both in terms of the number of students selecting each book and the student work being generated.

”The program will not be stagnant,” Piperato said. “We are going to ask ‘are students picking the books and how often they are being used?’ And, those books not being used or providing the work that the teacher asked for will be cycled off.”

Plus, Piperato told the board, the high school also determined that “some of the warnings for books with mature content need to be a bit stronger and that the reading list itself and those warnings need to be a little more available to parents.”

Piperato listed several ways the high school will alert parents that the summer reading list has been released, including telephone blasts and a link on the landing page of the EHS website.

“This way parents can click through the reading list and make an informed decision about what book they want their child to read,” he said.

Both “Acid Test” and “Prep” are still available in the Emmaus High School library.

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