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'Angry Managment' to remain in KCSD libraries

Posted: August 11, 2011 4:23 p.m.
Updated: August 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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“Angry Management” is back.

A month and a half after Camden High School (CHS) parent Douglas Berry expressed concern about the book’s use of profanity, members of a special review committee said “Angry Management” should remain on the KCSD high school library shelves. The novel, written by Chris Crutcher, also appeared on high school summer reading lists.

“But one of the concessions that we made is that we would include our resources, which would be free to the public, to research the books. That way, a parent could make an informed decision on whether or not that book was appropriate for their child,” CHS Assistant Principal and committee leader Lesley Corner said. “We have DISCUS, and we’re going to give parents the password. They would be able to go on there and read the professional reviews that we read -- they already have access to those, we’re just going to include it on the summer reading list so they would know how to get to those resources.”

(Read Berry’s letter to the editor in response to the committee’s decision.)

The KCSD summer reading list for high school students is compiled by English teachers and media specialists from the school district’s three high schools. All 40 books chosen for inclusion in the high school summer reading list are read by at least one individual serving on the committee. Twenty of the books on the list, which includes “Angry Management,” were South Carolina 2011-12 Young Adult Book Award nominees.

Corner said whether or not the book would also be on high school students’ summer reading lists next year is a decision that has yet to be made by next year’s reading list committee.

“If they continue with the same process, 20 of the titles would absolutely change because it would be the Young Adult Book Award nominees for next year, which would be different than the ones for this year,” she said.

Selected by CHS Principal Dan Matthews, the review committee included an English teacher from Lugoff-Elgin High School, two CHS parents, as well as a business, physical education, media specialist and social studies teacher from CHS.

The committee said the use of expletives in the book is “not as widespread as noted (in) the complaint” and is used by characters in personal conversations during a counseling group session, or as private thoughts by a character.

“This is language (if not worse) people saddled with life circumstances as detailed in the book usually use in real life,” according to the report. “Therefore, we believe students will relate to the characters and their plight more readily.”

Another thing that the committee agreed on, Corner said, was that reading the book “in this type of situation” is different than teaching it in a class.

“At any time, a person could close the book and say it’s not for me and they have 39 other choices. Whereas if the book was being taught in a class, they would be exposed to it whether they want or not,” she said.

The committee also said students can learn from the book -- as it includes teachings about hope, self-esteem and religious freedom, and addresses issues such as prejudice, domestic abuse and identity.

“Several committee members shared that school is here to serve all children and not just one child. The book teaches about social events and self-reflections,” the report said. “Crutcher does a masterful job of depicting, analyzing, and bringing to light the many challenges that face our youth in today’s society. Our society will greatly benefit from more young people seeing strong book characters using whatever creative means they have to become better people in spite of the obstacles they face.”

Furthermore, the committee -- which Corner said read the book, examined literary reviews and researched professional lists -- also agreed that the book serves as a good example of the value that can be gained by “looking at the total picture.”

“Scanning a book, watching a movie, utilizing online information, etc., cannot give a person enough information to reach an intelligent decision. The characters in this book deserved to be treated with the respect of having the reader understand their dilemmas,” the report said. “Encouraging students to ‘look at the total picture’ will assist them academically, enhance their extra-curricular activities, and promote better relationships with their families and peers.”

Acknowledging that the committee supported the professional reviews that recommend the book for high school students, Corner said that doesn’t mean that they made the decision that it was appropriate for all high school students.

“What we said was that we felt, as a school, that the book was on the list because of it being a Young Adult book nominee, and that if a parent didn’t feel that it was appropriate for their child that was a decision they should make,” she said. “But we shouldn’t make that decision for everyone.”

Kershaw County School District Director for Communications Mary Anne Byrd said the committee’s recommendation to include educational resources for parents on future summer reading lists would be both helpful and beneficial.

“The committee was well-represented, and we’re going to have a better way of communicating with parents in the future because of their thoughtfulness,” Byrd said.

On Thursday afternoon, Crutcher said that while he is flattered about the committee’s thoughts regarding his book, he still is concerned about the process that the school district used when making its decision.

“The school district got intimidated and did this ‘guilty until proven innocent’ thing. One person came in and they took the book off until a decision was made,” he said. “This really isn’t about my book, it’s about the process – and that’s a policy that schools should look at.”

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