The Knox County Board of Education and those who attended the Wednesday night Knox County Board of Education meeting got an earful when the parent of a 15-year-old Karns High School student read some passages from a book her son was required to read.
“How can I raise my child in a Christian home when he is required to read about this?” Lori Seal, who was accompanied by five other parents, was referring to a book that intimately describes in detail how a girl initiates a sexual experience with a boy and ongoing sexual encounters of teenagers that includes a girl named Alaska in boarding school.
On the list of required reading for Knox County High Schools’ Honors and Advanced Placement outside readings for English II is a book entitled “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. It is described as a well-written fictional story about kids gone wild with porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, and death at a boarding school.
Seal said she objected not only to her child being required to read this book, but that it is not listed with a warning. On the required reading list for English II Honors are three books in order, “Looking for Alaska”, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, and “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose. Also on the list are six other books for English III and English IV that have an asterisk with a footnote warning they contain “Mature scene(s) or theme and language may be objectionable.” “Looking for Alaska” has no asterisk, leading parents to the opinion that it has no such matter.
Out of 216 pages there are 281 occurrences of such words Seal considers inappropriate for any 15-year-old. That calculates to 1.3 times per page which indicates to Seal that it is the theme of the book. “If a teacher should get up and say these words in front of a class of students, they would be put in jail, and should be fired,” Seal told the Journal.
Seal read straight from the book out loud to the Board. The Knoxville Journal chose not to print an excerpt she read due to the explicit language.
The board members sat speechless at hearing such language. Two from the audience walked out. After reading the passages containing a number of what she termed “inappropriate for high school sophomores” she asked the Board to take appropriate action and remove “Looking for Alaska” from the schools, especially as required reading.
“I not only think they should take it off the required reading list, they should take it out of the schools,” Seal added, “What literary benefit would my son gain from reading this book. It is pure porn. I was embarrassed to stand up there and read that, but as a parent I am teaching my son abstinence, then the schools promote and encourage sexual behavior.”
Seal who is a labor and delivery nurse, also commented, “They don’t warn against sexually transmitted diseases or the risk of pregnancy. I see children having babies after their first and only sexual experience.”
She said even some of her liberal friends were appalled and expressed outrage after learning their teenager was required to read “Looking for Alaska”.
The Board, knowing in advance her topic, told her before she spoke that they would listen but not respond.
After the meeting School Superintendent Dr. James P. McIntyre, Jr. told the Journal that the parent identified this as an issue a couple of weeks ago and they have already removed it from the required reading list. He didn’t say whether the book was still in the schools.
Seal said he was referring to two emails she sent him Feb. 2 and Feb. 10, to which she said he never responded. She also sent Knox County Schools English Supervisor an email explaining her objection to the book.
Nevertheless, she said that after the second email in which she threatened to go to the media, she received an email from the superintendent’s Chief of Staff Russ Oaks who referred her to an online “Reconsideration of materials and alternate materials recommendation” form she could download.
Dr. McIntyre said it was his opinion the matter had been resolved by removing the book as required reading.
By Wes Hall | W.Hall@theknoxvillejournal.com