‘Alice’ removed from middle school library

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Oconto Falls parent expresses concern about book’s content

A 1971 book purporting to be the diary of a 15-year-old girl who got involved in the drug culture and spiraled downward is being removed from the library shelves at Washington Middle School in Oconto Falls.

The school board unanimously accepted the recommendation of a study group assembled by Principal Stephanie Landreman to review “Go Ask Alice,” originally published anonymously but now said to have been “edited” by Beatrice Sparks.

A parent called the school’s attention to the book because of vulgar language and sexually explicit scenes, Superintendent Dean Hess told the board.

Landreman acted in accordance with district policy that gives her the option to either act on a challenge herself or form a group to study “the appropriateness of the material for age and maturity level of the students, the accuracy of the material, objectivity, and how it’s being used in the educational environment,” Hess said.

The parents expressed concern for their own kids and also for other parents who might not be aware the book was available, arguing there are other, more age-appropriate ways to teach the same information, he said.

Because of a previous challenge “Go Ask Alice” was already designated for withdrawal only by eighth-graders at the middle school, which serves grades six through eight.

It’s not required reading, “just one of 12,000 books in the library,” Hess said.

The book received positive reviews when it was first released and even topped the American Library Association’s 1971 list of “Best Books for Young People.” It’s also been a frequent target of challenges by concerned parents, and the book is most often available starting at the high school level.

Hess told the board he can see both sides of the issue.

“I can see myself in the shoes of the parents, I can absolutely see their concerns. If I had a young person and they were reading this, I would probably have very similar concerns,” he said. “However, I will also say this is a very slippery slope that we’re on, and if we’re not very cautious and thoughtful, we could find many volumes in our library that would cause us concern.”

Board members agreed that they don’t want to open the door to censorship but said removing the eighth-grade-only book from the middle school library only postpones its availability to those students by a year. They also noted that once an eighth-grader borrows the book, it can be shown to younger friends.

“In this case, it appears that since the book had already been identified in our library as available for eighth-graders and not seventh and sixth, in reality it’s pretty accessible to sixth- and seventh-graders while it’s in that location,” board member Jan Stranz said.

Landreman said the book was checked out of the Washington Middle School library only twice this school year, and the second time is when the parent brought it forward.