Replica edition News Newsletters Sports Opinion Obituaries Religion Features Where to Buy Contact Photos

Board votes to keep ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ in school library

by Lynn Kutter | May 3, 2023 at 12:55 p.m.

FARMINGTON -- Farmington School Board considered another appeal last week from a parent asking for a book to be removed from the high school library.

In March, the board unanimously voted to restrict two books in the high school library to students who are 17 years or older. The board's decision was in response to an appeal by Atina King.

King asked the school board to remove books, "All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson and "Tricks" by Ellen Hopkins.

For the latest appeal, also filed by King, the board on April 24 unanimously voted to keep the book in the library for all students.

King was asking the board to remove "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut.

After the meeting, board president Travis Warren said he voted to retain "Slaughterhouse-Five" and to restrict the other two books because of the different context of the materials.

"For me, those other ones were about sexual awakenings and a person's journey into a sex life," Warren said. "This one is basically about a person who keeps reliving the horrific experiences he had during war. It is not in the context of him learning how to be sexually active."

At the meeting, Warren said he read "Slaughterhouse-Five" in high school and read it again because of the challenge. Somewhere in his house, he said he has a copy of the book.

In challenging the book, King said she did not read the entire material because she found it "too disturbing." Her reasons for wanting the book removed included violence, sexual activities including bestiality and nudity, profanity and inflammatory religious comments. Her challenge included excerpts from 25-30 pages in the book.

A five-member committee from the high school considered King's request to remove the book and recommended retaining it.

The committee, which included high school principal Jon Purifoy, the school's media specialist and three teachers, noted that the overall purpose of the novel is "to give brutal and honest insight into the horrors of war and the consequences of war on humans."

The author witnessed the bombing of Dresden as an American POW in Germany and was using his personal experiences to criticize the choices governments, societies and humans make during war, the committee said in its report.

"Slaughterhouse-Five" should be retained in the library, the committee determined, because the book is a work listed on the College Board Advanced Placement reading list and also because it is an "important commentary on human nature, war and society's reaction to both."

High school teacher Stefanie Earnheart and high school senior Wyatt Fournier addressed the school board in support of the book during the meeting's public comment period.

As a parent, Earnheart, who also served on the committee to review the book, said she values input from her children's teachers and has never felt that a political agenda was being pushed on her children.

She said she communicates with her children on what she believes is appropriate for them and wants them to be "well-rounded and educated enough to realize what is good vs. bad."

As an educator, Earnheart said she believes her role is to impart knowledge to students in a meaningful and constructive way. While the book is on the AP list, teachers are not forcing students to read it, and even have offered alternatives, Earnheart said.

"When we restrict information and discourage freedom of thought, we undermine one of the primary functions of education, teaching students how to think for themselves," Earnheart said.

Fournier, who will be salutatorian for the Class of 2023, said he read "Slaughterhouse-Five" and described it as "one of the most artistically prevalent and well-crafted books" that he has read. The book combines "literary techniques and anecdotes to make a story both challenging and at times comical for its reader."

Fournier said every detail in the book served the themes of the work, even the ones that were disturbing or inappropriate in nature.

Fournier also said that books such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and similar works helped him discover his passion and made him a more understanding and empathetic person.

King also spoke during the public comment period and thanked the board for voting to restrict access to the two books and keeping minor students "safe from sexually explicit materials." She apologized for any criticisms board members may have received about restricting access but said age restrictions are not book bans and the books are available online or in other community public libraries.

All board members made statements as they discussed "Slaughterhouse-Five" and said they did not think it should be restricted or removed.

Board member Mark Vaughn said parts of the book took him back a little but that he believes the book overall has a place in society and in American schools.

Board member Josh Petree said he read the book years ago and did not have any issue with his own kids reading it.

In an email after the meeting, King said she was disappointed in the board's decision.

Print Headline: Board votes to keep ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ in school library


Sponsor Content