MVSD parents say book has ‘no place in our school system’

‘The Hate U Give’ could be banned from school district

MONTE VISTA — Some Monte Vista School District parents rallied against the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, saying “it has no place in our school system.”

For now, the book was on hold and a process to ban the book from the school district was triggered, according to Monte Vista School District Superintendent Scott Wiedeman.

“I am not saying that we won’t keep the book, or we will keep the book in the system, all I am saying is, for now, we have put a stop to the book, because we have to go through this process before we can move forward, and this process is not a fast one,” Wiedeman said.

The concerned parents learned that a new high school English teacher wants the book that deals with race to be part of her curriculum. The eight parents that spoke made it clear at the Feb. 10 school board meeting during public comment that they did not want their children exposed to it in an MVSD classroom setting. Adding or removing the book to the curriculum was not an agenda item.

“The Hate U Give” was published in 2017 and was made into a movie in 2018. Thomas’s debut novel spent 80 weeks on the New York Times Young Adult Best-Seller List. It debuted at number one on the list and spent 50 weeks in that spot.

The book and others dealing with race and the LGBTQ+ issues have been banned by officials from classrooms and school libraries or are landing on watch lists. “The Hate U Give” has been challenged since its release for its profanity and depiction of drug dealing, but mostly for its reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The local parents that spoke at the meeting labeled the book as being Critical Race Theory infused, claimed it had elements of hate against whites, promoted bullying, had an anti-police message, and said the teacher advocating for the book was promoting a personal agenda.

Elementary student parent Michael Decker, who recently moved to Monte Vista, said the high school administration was not doing its job and questioned the motives of the teacher.

“I feel we shouldn’t even be here talking about this, because I feel that it is the responsibility of the principal of that teacher to intercede in this, sooner than this,” Decker said. “I feel like you have a teacher here that is supposed to be teaching a subject in the class but is bringing a totally separate personal agenda into the class, so she’s basically doing two separate jobs while she is there.”

Decker said that MVHS Principal Jose Ortega had basically said that this book was acceptable because it was approved by the Colorado Board of Education. Decker said that regardless of that approval, there was a separate personal agenda here, and it was not acceptable and not professional.

"The Hate U Give” is narrated by a 16-year-old Black girl, Starr Carter, who lives in a poor neighborhood but attends an elite suburban prep school attended mostly by White children. One day Carter’s world is turned upside down when she witnesses a White police officer fatally shoot her Black childhood best friend Khalil. Khalil was unarmed when he was shot.

In the book, Khalil’s death becomes a national headline. Rumors surface — people begin referring to Khalil as a drug dealer or a gangster and a gangbanger. Many people also begin to protest for Khalil on the streets and within their communities. With Carter being the only witness to what happened that night, several police officers along with drug lords try to intimidate her into telling the truth or being silent. What Carter does or does not talk about could both endanger her life and bring shock to her community.

Decker said a supervisor should have taken control of this situation because if he were doing two separate things at the place where he worked, it would be up to his supervisor to intercede and tell him that this was wrong. 

Even with the book being told from a young girl’s perspective, one local parent said, “The book is still promoting elements of racism along with police brutality and violence and has no place in our school system.” 

Although not an agenda item, some trustees advised the parents of protocol for removing or banning a book from the district would be followed and as part of that parents could express their thoughts positive or negative by filling out a form.

Wiedeman said the forms will be read, the book will be evaluated, and everything must be presented to the Colorado Board of Education.

“I can assure you that we take very seriously all of our student’s needs. I was approached by this last week, and we appreciate your opinions,” Wiedeman said.

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