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Stephen King book to remain in Rocklin High library

By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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Stephen King book to remain in Rocklin High library

By Krissi Khokhobashvili

Placer Herald editor

A Stephen King story collection previously removed from the Rocklin High School library will remain available to students, a book review committee has determined.

The committee will present its findings to the Rocklin Unified School District board of trustees at its Nov. 7 meeting. At the Oct. 3 board meeting, RHS senior Amanda Wong informed the board that a book had been removed from shelves due to a parent complaint regarding a graphic rape scene in the short story “Apt Pupil,” part of the four-story collection “Different Seasons.” Wong was the student representative and one dissenting vote on the review committee, and told the board she disagreed with censorship, and that the book should be evaluated as a whole, not on the basis of one scene.

RUSD Superintendent Kevin Brown formed a new committee, comprising representatives from all district high schools, as the book is available districtwide. Whitney High School Principal Debra Hawkins served as chair on the committee that included Rocklin Alternative Education Principal Mark Williams, K-6 Librarian Lorraine Littlejohn, Special Education Director Betty Jo Wessinger, RHS English teacher Jef James, Whitney English teacher Cruz Ordonez, Whitney High parent Sharon Barker and Soulee Matos, a Whitney High student.

According to the committee’s report, “After careful consideration and discussion, the committee concluded that although this parent has the right and responsibility to direct her son in his book selection for school library materials, removal of ‘Different Seasons’ for all high school readers is not appropriate for a variety of reasons.”

Also at the Nov. 7 meeting, the district will discuss the board policy regarding library media centers. At the Oct. 17 meeting, the board approved deletion of an administrative regulation addressing library material selection, as the regulation’s contents and instructions are addressed in other policies. But district librarians met and agreed that the selection of library materials is relevant, and will request reinstating the regulation at the Nov. 7 meeting.

According to the regulation, criteria to be applied when selecting library materials includes that the selection is developmentally appropriate, compatible with curriculum, has literary quality, is motivational for reluctant readers, is instrumental in promoting recreational reading, has accurate factual content and is a “realistic representation of our pluralistic society.”

“The disturbing content unfortunately does support the criteria, due to the fact that rape is a reality,” Matos said in the committee’s report to the board. “And to take that further, sadly, there are people in this world that do enjoy committing the act, as Todd did in the story. As unfortunate as it is, this story does contain realistic events.”

“In the broader view,” she added, “nearly every book in the library contains material that is offensive to parents or even students. However, if one parent is able to ban a book based on his or her opinion, then the same will go for any other parent. Therefore, the content of the libraries will greatly diminish over time until the subject matter becomes basic and unrealistic. As a student, I consider that a threat to my education.”

Hawkins said she provided a lot of information to the committee members about board policy and what the book selection process is in other school district. She also made sure that each committee member had read the story, which is more of a novella, she pointed out, at more than 150 pages long.

“We discussed briefly what our charge was,” she said, “which was not to evaluate the book exactly, but to have a conversation about the book in relation to taking the book off the shelf.”

The committee, Hawkins said, felt there was sound judgment in having put the book on the shelf to begin with – “Different Seasons” was part of Rocklin High’s original library collection. And in its 20 years on the shelves there, she added, it has only been checked out about four times.

In its report, the committee said it believes that is a parent’s right to restrict their children’s reading materials, and suggested that parent give the librarian names of authors she does not want her student to read.

Rocklin High Principal David Bills said that forming the district committee was the appropriate process according to board policy.

“They worked through it and determined that the book should stay in the library,” he said, adding that the committee’s decision is final.

Hawkins commended the dialogue of the committee, particularly Matos, who wrote down her thoughts for use in the report.

“We just had a very good dialogue,” Hawkins said, “over what we found out and what we believed was supported by facts.”