Pasco superintendent considers procedures for classroom book assignments
Having dealt with a specific challenge to the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning wants to turn his attention to the way teachers assign any books that aren't part of the district-adopted curriculum.
His goal: To avoid more situations where parents object to content after seeing it without any sort of warning.
Browning is considering a procedure in which teachers would send home a list of the novels their classes will read during the semester. That list would go out in the first week of classes, along with a brief explanation of the connection to academic standards and an alert to any potentially upsetting content.
"We need to let parents know ahead of time what materials are being used," Browning said. "Then the onus is put upon the parents to review the materials."
If they have concerns, they could ask the teacher for an alternative novel selected by the teacher that still meets the intended lesson.
That practice, which has yet to be fully detailed or approved, would assume that teachers have read the books themselves before assigning them. That did not happen at Pasco Middle School, where The Perks of Being a Wallflower was purchased and assigned without anyone having read it. The book contains references to sex and drugs that some parents found objectionable.
"The expectation is if I have classroom teachers who are assigning materials, they need to have read them or reviewed them before they assign them," Browning said.
That's particularly true of items that did not go through a thorough district adoption cycle and win approval from the School Board.
Browning didn't want to commit to specific consequences for teachers who assign books they haven't read themselves, saying principals need flexibility to deal with those teachers. But he stressed that teachers assigning books they have not read is not acceptable.
"It makes no sense," he added.
The administration is revising its policies and procedures on these issues for future School Board consideration.