Tag Archives: Buncombe

‘The Kite Runner’ Decision: A Bold Move To Attack Parental Rights

For Immediate Release: An Open Letter To The Media Regarding
‘The Kite Runner’ Decision
Contact: Lisa Baldwin 828-243-6590
July 2, 2015

At a special called meeting today, the Buncombe County school board accepted a school district review committee’s recommendation to keep ‘The Kite Runner’ on the reading list for all high schools in the district.

Cindy McMahon, school board member said, “I am grateful that this process has happened in our community and that so many of us have read this book and are talking about it. And this is what democracy is about.”

After making this statement, McMahon and the rest of the Board unanimously voted to keep the book on all high school reading lists which means the Board will not allow parents at any Buncombe high school to challenge ‘The Kite Runner‘. This decision was a slap in the face of democracy and parental rights; parents should have the right to offer input into their children’s education.

This decision is about more than a sexually explicit novel (graphic descriptions of child rape/sexual assault) written at a 6th grade reading level. It is about disregard for academic rigor and the proper guardianship of our children.Many academically rigorous books could have been chosen, such as NYT Bestseller, ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, that address the Islamic culture but don’t contain sexually explicit details of child rape/sexual assault.
Some board members called taking the book off the list, censorship. This is not about book banning or censorship but judging whether a book is suitable for whole class instruction. The book has stayed in school libraries, public libraries and bookstores.
Other board members felt opting out was a fair option. In general, opting-out is not a good solution because there is great value in class discussion. This situation forces an unequal education, unless there is a significant group opting out. It can also set up the student who opts out to be ostracized and bullied. 

Lisa Baldwin

Lisa Baldwin, M.S.
Buncombe Students First 

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. 
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What The Asheville Citizen-Times Didn’t Disclose…

Buncombe’s School Board Policy allows parents to question supplemental materials used in the classroom. And that’s exactly what I did when my child told me he would be reading The Kite Runner in 10th grade Honors English class instead of the time-honored classic, All Quiet on the Western Front.

When I offered a compromise, the teacher and adminstration ignored my request. Below I detail how I asked to continue reading the classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, comparing and contrasting the WWI soldiers experience with that of modern warriors in Afghanistan/Iraq, using appropriate excerpts from The Kite Runner and other books.

Interestingly, when the teacher (and the administrative entourage) met with me, there were no lesson plans presented or any verbal explanations on exactly how the book in question, The Kite Runner, would be used in the classroom. The low reading level, mature adult themes (homosexual rapes of children, extreme cruelty and violence, murder, profanity demeaning to women, and suicide attempt) didn’t matter to the teacher, only that the book was about Afghanistan. I expressed concerns that the book description she gave didn’t fully disclose the adult themes nor did it ask parents to sign a permission slip. She expressed that this would be the first time she has taught the book in the classroom.

After the principal contacted the media, I followed up my response to the Asheville Citizen-Times reporter with the documentation below.

The article in the newspaper :http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/05/01/school-suspends-use-kite-runner-following-complaint/26736581/

From: Lisa Baldwin <lisabaldwin4kids@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, May 1, 2015 at 4:32 PM
Subject: The Kite Runner Issue
To: Julie Ball <jball@citizen-times.com>
Cc: Joshua <jawtry@gannett.com>, “Ponder, Brian” <bponder@ashevill.gannett.com>

Hi Julie,

Thanks for calling today; I wanted to follow-up before you finished the story. Please include that The Kite Runner is a 6.8th grade reading level (lexile) book but is classified as an adult book, not a young adult novel like All Quiet on the Western Front (9th grade reading level.)
Emails below include:
  1. The compromise I suggested.
  2. Request for full disclosure to parents of the adult themes in The Kite Runner. I also requested that a permission slip be sent home to parents; an “opt-in” form rather than an opt-out form.
  3. The link to an article about the situation from Andrea Dillon’s blog at the bottom which details the meeting with the teacher (Ms. Sellers, the principal, and Eric Grant, ELA Specialist, also attended.)
While I understand All Quiet on the Western Front has profanity and wartime violence, it is not in the same category as The Kite Runner (homosexual rape of children, sexual profanity demeaning to women, graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including murder, beatings and a suicide attempt.) 
My best,
Lisa Baldwin

Compromise on English Honors II book, The Kite Runner

April 30, 2015

Dear Ms. Sellers,

I am concerned by your silence when I asked for transparency and full disclosure to parents of the issues involved in replacing a classic young adult novel in the English Honors II curriculum with an adult-themed book written at a low reading level.
Perhaps you are still mulling these facts over, trying to make a good decision. I have been thinking, too, and have a suggestion that may help.
Has the question been asked as to why students can’t continue to read the time-proven classic All Quiet on the Western Front, comparing the WWI soldiers’ experience with the modern war in Afghanistan/Iraq? Appropriate excerpts from The Kite Runner could be used along with excerpts from other books like The Lone Survivor (http://amzn.to/1EFSorK) or the bio of Malalai Joya (: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malalai_Joya), a courageous woman elected to Afghan’s parliament 

As a parent, my main concern is that classic novels are being removed from reading lists without parent input. Sometimes the classics are not easy to read but teach us perseverance and other lessons.
I know ACRHS has always had high standards for Honors English. I would support using appropriate excerpts from modern literature while continuing to read and examine the classics.
The compromise I have proposed doesn’t lower the bar but would enrich the class discussion for all students.
Thank you for considering my thoughts and I hope to get a response soon.
Lisa Baldwin
On Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 10:06 AM, Lisa Baldwin <lisabaldwin4kids@gmail.com> wrote:

Ms. Sellers,

I remain concerned about the disingenuous process used to let parents know about the change from a Young Adult to an Adult fiction book for Ms. Bowman’s 10th grade Honors English students (from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Kite Runner.) No mention of this was made at the Open House and it was never posted on Ms. Bowman’s website. I understand she was not certain the book would be approved (for obvious reasons) but important information has not been disclosed to parents.
I am asking that you please contact parents immediately with:
  • a revised form, asking for parents’ permission for their child to read the book (opt-in form), and
  • full disclosure of the reading level (grade 6.8), the name of the 9th grade reading level book being replaced (All Quiet on the Western Front) or give parents a choice (All Quiet on the Western Front or The Kite Runner); include The Kite Runner’s graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including more than one episode of the homosexual rape of children. The Kite Runner also includes profanity demeaning to women, murder, beatings and a suicide attempt. Let parents know this is an adult book, not a young adult book.
Please do the same for Ms. Latini’s class; I understand there are adult themes in the A Thousand Splendid Suns book as well. My letter is posted below with the details of our meeting and a request for the names and positions of all those on the MTAC committee who approved this book.
Lisa Baldwin
Andrea Dillon’s blog about the meeting I had with the administration: http://ladyliberty1885.com/2015/04/30/another-nc-reading-assignment-questioned/

Saying YES to STEM Education but NO to LOCATION of Asheville STEM High School

  1. The $5.5 million Buncombe County STEM High School site is a former Square D plant and is considered part of the 128 Bingham Road hazardous waste site, as designated by NC DENR. For more information: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wm/sf/ihshome/squared

  2. Monitoring wells less than 1,000 feet from the Central Office/proposed STEM HS contain high levels of the volatile organic compounds, TCE and PCE. In recent years it has been found that contaminant plumes in the upper aquifer are most likely to contribute to vapor intrusion in buildings. Since the central office is not on well water, vapor intrusion is the concern. The Center for Public Environmental Oversight published a report on the Buncombe Central Office site in January 2013: http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/BuncombeSchools.pdf

  3. Two vapor intrusion tests at the Central Office conducted recently, show little to no PCE and TCE vapor intrusion at this time (Mountain Environmental Report Feb 2013) however, ; this is a long-term problem.  The planned four years of monitoring is not enough.

  4. Both monitoring and mitigation are expensive and we have other options for the STEM high school location besides the central office.  A local college such as UNCA (e.g., Wake County STEM HS at NCSU), school within a school (e.g., Asheville HS SILSA program), or an existing school that is only at 1/2 capacity (Woodfin Elementary) are all viable options. As you may know, Buncombe school enrollment has been in decline for five years.  The 2011-12 capacity report put BCS at approximately 6,000 empty seats.  For comparison, Cabarrus County Schools (same size as Buncombe) has only 500 empty seats. Most districts regularly re-draw attendance lines or offer parental choice/magnet schools to balance schools.

  5. Breathing the carcinogensTCE or PCE is harmful and has most recently been linked to heart defects in the unborn. Women of childbearing age (15-44) should not be put at risk of exposure. The EPA reports:  TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses a potential human health hazard for noncancer toxicity to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing fetus. Some of you have dealt with the south Asheville CTS plant over the past few years and understand how we continue to learn more about the risks of exposure to contamination.

  6. The liability risk should be considered – just 1-2 real or perceived injuries resulting in litigation over the next ten years could be financially devastating.

  7. NC DPI School Planning Section Chief, Steve Taynton. has said the Central Office was poorly constructed; there are different construction standards for manufacturing facilities than schools. In addition, he said the building (no windows) is not a conducive environment for a school.  Mr. Taynton’s office will review the plans for the STEM school but can only offer recommendations. The state cannot mandate that another location be found.

  8. Legislation is coming down the pike, being drafted by Rep. Ramsey’s office, to prevent schools from being built on sites like this, within 1,000 feet of detected contamination but may not be in effect in time:  http://www.serconline.org/toxicschoolsites/fact.html

WHAT CAN YOU DO? – Ask your School Board members to revisit their decision to put the STEM High School on the edge of a hazardous waste site and investigate better options. This will free up $5 million in lottery funds for teaching or digital learning per proposed NC legislation. With this lottery money, Buncombe could buy laptops (e.g., Google Chromebooks) for all middle and high school students so they could learn at their own pace with teachers as facilitators. Mooresville, NC Graded School District has achieved outstanding academic results from using the laptop model.