Beaverton school administrator goes along with committee and keeps story on reading list

A Beaverton School District administrator has upheld last week's book review committee recommendations allowing students to read a short story by science fiction giant Ray Bradbury.

On Friday, Sarah Boly, district superintendent of teaching and learning, signed off on keeping Bradbury's 'The Veldt' as part of the curriculum taught in the Junior Great Books series.

On Sept. 20, an instructional materials review committee recommended that Bradbury's short story, 'The Veldt,' should continue to be read in district middle schools despite a complaint from the parents of a middle school student who thought its language and plot were inappropriate for students.

In a written response to Kristi and Tracy Roberts, Boly stated that the story was 'consistent with the district's general educational goals' and that the committee did not believe the story condoned the actions of the character.

'It was also their (the committee's) contention that the story sets the stage for engaging classroom interaction providing that a classroom culture of respect and thoughtful discourse is also prevalent,' Boly wrote.

At issue was Bradbury's 1951 story about children placed in an artificial environment where they create a world of predators. When the parents attempt to remove the landscape, the children lock the parents inside the fantasy room where they are killed by lions.

'The Veldt' is part of an anthology of stories used in the district's Junior Great Books series.

During last week's review committee meeting, both Kristi and Tracy Roberts said they believed the violence in the piece was not appropriate for students at any district grade level.

Kristi Roberts earlier had said that the story wasn't followed up by a discussion of consequences for the children's actions and she also objected to some of the language spoken by the characters.

Last year, the couple pulled their daughter, who was then a Stoller sixth-grader, out of the class during discussion of the story.

The review committee was made up of a middle school principal, two middle school language arts teachers, a library/media specialist and the parent of a middle school student. None were associated with Stoller.

The committee could have voted to retain, remove or modify the story. In a 6-0 vote, the group recommended that the work be retained.

Rachael Spavins, a parent and volunteer coordinator at Cedar Park Middle School, said she read 'The Veldt' as a lesson on how technology has impacted the nuclear family.

Spavins said her sixth-grade daughter saw it as a warning that 'too much television and computers are bad for you.'

In the end, said Spavins, it came down to the amount of trust placed in the judgment of teachers.

'Fortunately, I have a huge amount of faith in the staff in the district,' she said.

Teacher David Slater said he felt Bradbury's piece was a warning that when interpersonal relationships are taken out of the family, evil is introduced.

'I too saw this as a cautionary tale and a really rich piece for discussion,' said Jenny Takeda, a district library specialist.

However, Tracy Roberts noted that if the book were a motion picture shown in school, students would have to have permission to see it.

'If this was a movie, in my mind it would be rated PG-13,' he said. 'Literature isn't rated that way and at what point do we draw the line?'

Although there was brief discussion on whether works of literature read in the schools should have warnings on them, the idea was dismissed.

After the committee's decision, Kristi Roberts said she was disappointed but not totally surprised, having been warned that it is difficult to have such a work removed.

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