Staying Fat was recently challenged in Wisconsin's Belleville School District for being part of the grade-nine curriculum. Lori Beil, the mother of a student at Belleville High School, complained that the book was pornographic and full of vulgar profanity. An article on Channel3000.com reported part of the recorded message Beil presented to the review committee:
"I believe it would be better for the school to choose books without sex and profanity, that don't bash someone's religion. There are more noble and aspiring choices. Why am I doing this? I'm motivated by love. Love for my son, love for God and love for you, the people of my town."Beil also stated that having an alternative reading available for her son was not a fair option:
"No child should need to leave a classroom because a book has too much offensive content when there are so many excellent books to choose from."I think at this point it is important to note that Beil never recommended any alternative texts to the committee, nor did she seem to have any trouble talking about her religious beliefs even though others might have found her position to be offensive. Double standards are difficult to consider seriously in situations like this. There is, however, a silver lining to this story, in that other parents and students were very supportive of the text being part of the curriculum:
Most of the parents and students who turned out, many wearing green stickers in support of the book, said that Sarah's story has done exactly what it should.
"I think our teens today face so many issues that a lot of us adults cannot even wrap our heads around. I think it's really important that they're exposed," said parent Teresa McMahan.
"The book 'Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes,' has not only been a high-quality read but has sent positive messages to me, and I would say, without hesitation, to most of my class," said Taylor Forman, a Belleville High School freshman.The review committee voted unanimously to keep the book as part of the curriculum and sent their recommendation to the School Board. I am very happy that this decision was made (and so is the Wisconsin chapter of the ACLU.) If people are so worried about portrayals of their religion or certain moral standards, all it says to me is that they are weak in their convictions if a YA novel can shake them this deeply.
Thoughts? Comments? Concerns?
As always, thanks for listening.