From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan to consider removal of library book

Posted by: Erin Adler Updated: April 25, 2014 - 11:27 AM

A parent with a child in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district is objecting to the inclusion of a book published in the mid-80s in district libraries and reading lists because it uses the word "retarded" to describe students with special needs.

As a result, the book will be reviewed by a committee of parents, teachers and a principal. They will read the book and vote on whether to keep it in circulation at a public meeting on May 14.

Parent Jenna Boutain, who has a daughter at Shannon Park Elementary and works for the district, is requesting the removal because the book uses the word "retarded" eight times and "is outdated and uses language that is no longer acceptable."

She also wrote that it "does not support our district's beliefs of preparing students to be contributing members of a diverse society and providing students with a safe, respectful and positive learning environment."

Convening a committee to consider removing a book is fairly uncommon and hasn't happened in the district since 2010, said Tony Taschner, district spokesman.

"I've been here since 1996, and there have been five books that have gone through the reconsideration process in that time," said Taschner.

A committee voted to keep all but one of those titles, district records show.

The book in question, "Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You," by Barthe DeClements, centers on Helen, a preteen with learning and behavior issues. When a teacher realizes she has a learning disability, she decides to enroll in special education classes to address the problem, even though it means her classmates call her "retard." Eventually, with support and hard work, her reading improves.

The district has a process in place for when a parent objects to a book, said Taschner. First, parents must go to their principal, who can restrict their student's access. If the parent persists, a committee is formed to consider the book's future.

If the committee decides to retain it, the parent can appeal that decision, Taschner said.

A national campaign sponsored by the Special Olympics has urged people to end use of "the r word" in recent years. Nearly half a million people have pledged to stop saying it, according to www.r-word.org.

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