The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

June 15, 2012

Book still banned at Erie

ERIE, Ill. — The Erie School Board on Thursday upheld its decision to ban a book and lesson plan on diversity and tolerance of same-sex parents.

In May, the School Board banned the “The Family Book,” by Todd Parr and accompanying materials.

The materials, which are part of the “Ready, Set, Respect!” lesson endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, were implemented at the elementary school this spring as part of the diversity and tolerance unit in the school.

One of the controversial lines in “The Family Book” states “some families have two moms or two dads.” After receiving complaints from several parents, the materials selection committee reviewed the book and lessons before the board voted 5-2 to ban them at its May meeting.

Board member Charles Brown defended the ban and the board’s choice to use other materials for the tolerance and diversity curriculum.

“We have nothing but the students’ best interest in our mind. But we live in a democracy and a vote is a vote. This board voted,” Brown said.

Brown, along with some fellow board members, suggested the community use the school board election in April if they were unsatisfied with the current board.

The ban gained national attention this month after an online petition called for the school board to reverse its decision.

The petition was started by 2010 Erie High School graduate Sean Leeds. Leeds joined a mixed group of more than a 100 book supporters and ban supporters who packed the Erie Middle School cafeteria Thursday.

“It’s crucial to instill tolerance and diversity in our community’s children during a young age...The only agenda here is to promote tolerance in our children,” Leeds said during the meeting. “Exposing children to the reality that is this incredibly diverse world that we live in is not a narrow view, excluding groups from children by trying to protect them from reality is.”

Parent Mindy Jepson on Thursday said she supports the ban because she believes it’s what’s best for her three children at Erie Elementary.

“I don’t feel it’s the school’s job to teach family diversity, gender expressions or any other lifestyles... Parents know their children best and how best to approach these situations. I think 'Ready, Set, Respect!' crosses the line when it starts redefining family, males and females,” Jepson said.

After hearing from several other speakers on both sides of the issue, the School Board had a brief discussion of its previous decision.

Board member Thomas Pons questioned holding referendum on the issue.

“Do we want to be the town that puts that on there and the stigma that’s going to go with it?” Pons asked.

Rather, Pons joined Brown in suggesting the voters hit the polls in April.

Board member Mike Heun agreed and illustrated it is the prerogative of board that will be elected next year and Erie residents to decide whether they want to revisit the issue.

“The final decision, the final word, will be in the hands of the community. This is not the teacher’s school. This is not the administrator’s school. This is the community’s school,” board member Mike Heun said.

After board members stated they would not change their votes, the meeting was adjourned.

“This matter is probably over with until April 2013,” Brown said.

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