Two mothers from Guilford County, NC are seeking to re-standardize the required reading list in their county public schools. WGHP news reports that Lisa Reid and Cathy Barnette collected 2,300 signatures on a petition they presented to the Guilford County School Board supporting their efforts.
The books in question include Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel 'The Handmaid’s Tale.' Reid and Barnette are particularly disturbed by this book, stating that the novelist's description of a futuristic, totalitarian, Christian theocracy presents an extreme view of Christianity, and the book also includes descriptions of sexual acts and suicidal thoughts
The report quotes Barnette as stating,
“We would like to see standards change so that sexually explicit pornographic reading material will not be assigned to our children in high school. It’s just not appropriate for teens.”
Reid had stated that she believed Christian students are bullied in society, and that unbelievers routinely attempt to make believers uncomfortable. Part of that bullying she contends is being exacerbated by The Handmaiden's Tale, as is explained in her claim that the novel has a negative view on religion, and contains 'anti-biblical attitudes' toward sex.
All of the books that teachers request to be added to their reading lists are previewed by an advisory committee composed of administrators, teachers, one student and one parent. The members of the committee read each book, then make a recommendation to the Board of Education. The final decision rests with the board.
The report reveals that Guilford County Schools curriculum specialist, Lynne Murray, states that the Board's decision is also informed by AP and IB testing standards, and includes information regarding reviews and awards each book is given, as well as the complexity of the subject and what the students will interpret by reading it.
Reid and Barnette maintain the need for more stringent requirements that are objective, instead of based on who is reading the book. This is not an easy task, according to the report, and has been attempted before. Murray further states,
“We talked about drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, but we found that the lines are different. One parent’s line is here, while another parent’s line may be somewhere else.”
The process for this latest salvo on public education by those holding strong religious views is the same for every inquiry. The advisory committee, which changes its makeup frequently, will review the book. They will then make a recommendation to either remove the book or keeping it.