’Body Talk’ to remain on WLC library shelves

  • Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School STAFF FILE PHOTO BY BEN CONANT

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/19/2022 10:32:20 AM

The book “Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy,” a collection of viewpoints edited by Kelly Jensen, will remain on the shelves of the library in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School after a split vote by the school board.

The book was initially questioned by parent and School Board member Darlene Anzalone, who went through the formal request process to have the book removed from the library, based on the fact that it involved references to sex and sexuality.

Among the issues Anzalone raised with the book was a chapter written by Shane Burcaw, a man with spinal muscular atrophy, taken from his blog, about his sex life.

Anzalone, in a statement submitted and read to the School Board Nov. 29, said, “Sex and sexuality are sensitive subjects, topics which as a parent first and School Board member second, I feel strongly is a topic that should be left for discussion in the home with the parents, not in school. I am not naive and fully aware of how much the topic of sex is ‘out there’ in culture and being shoved in our kids’ faces everywhere you look. As a parent, I feel it my job and role, along with my husband, to guide our children in this area.”

Anzalone also took issue with material in the book she said could “pit our kids against each other, specifically, the expression from many of the authors that the root of their problems could be traced back to white people, specifically white men.”

Specifically, Anzalone pointed to a chapter by Eugene Grant, who has a common form of dwarfism, who wrote that he had benefited from the privileges of being “white, straight, cisgender and middle class,” and in another chapter, a woman with chronic pain who went to several doctors over the years, wrote that there is a crisis of chronic pain, saying that society turns away from the pain of others, “especially when they aren’t white or male,” and about 10 similar examples.

Anzalone said for issues of shaping values and morals around issues like sex, it is the job of parents and guardians, not the school.

After Anzalone submitted a complaint about the book, a school committee, consisting of administrators, librarians, community members, reading specialists and teachers, reviewed the book and voted 4-3 for the book to remain in circulation for high school students and available to middle school students with parental permission. Anzalone appealed that decision to the school principal, Peter Weaver, who upheld the decision, and then the the School Board, which discussed the issue during its Nov. 29 meeting.

The meeting was highly attended, with the School Board hearing viewpoints from both sides, with the majority of speakers supporting keeping the book on the shelves.

“If parents do not want their children to read a particular book, then they are free to request the librarian uphold their individual choice. But they may not deny other access to the book or tell other parents what their children may read,” wrote recent WLC graduate Bailey Bresett of Wilton in a letter to the board. “WLC has a responsibility to prepare its students to succeed in our diverse and complex world. Helping students understand and tolerate different views is a key part of that.”

Katherine McClure, who had three children go through the WLC system, wrote to the board that the school’s policy is to provide “various perspectives” and books that are “diverse and inclusive.”

“The gist of the parent’s complaints is that these parents do not agree with what is written in the book. That may be, but their disagreement with what is written does not constitute a basis for the book to be removed,” McClure wrote.

The board voted 5-3 to retain the book, with nay votes  from Anzalone, Charlie Post and Jonathan Vanderhoof.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244  or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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