WHS committee votes to uphold challenged book
by Kellen Short and Anna Oakes
The Media and Technology Advisory Committee at Watauga High School voted unanimously Friday morning to uphold the use of a book challenged by a Boone parent.
The book, Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits," was the subject of a complaint by Chastity Lesesne, parent of a WHS sophomore in an honors English class, at an Oct. 14 Watauga County Board of Education meeting. The complaint triggered the book's review by the committee, which is comprised of principals, teachers, students and community representatives that also chooses materials and books to fill the library.
"The committee did vote unanimously to uphold the use of the book," said WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft, but "this decision is not binding in any way if there's an appeal." Ashcraft said the committee's report and recommendation would be delivered to WCS Superintendent David Fonseca next week.
Lesesne did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Friday afternoon.
"House of the Spirits," published in 1982, is described on the author's website as "both a symbolic family saga and the story of an unnamed Latin American country's turbulent history ... The Trueba family's passions, struggles and secrets span three generations and a century of violent change, culminating in a crisis that brings the proud and tyrannical patriarch and his beloved granddaughter to opposite sides of the barricades."
Lesesne called the book "graphic" and "immoral" and said the challenging themes and ideas the book presents are lost within the novel's graphic descriptions of rape, prostitution, violence, abuse, abortion and death.
Ashcraft said the committee allowed Lesesne and teacher Mary Kent Whitaker to make statements before deliberating.
"Each side got a chance to state the case and the facts as they understood them," he said. "It's my understanding that they went to a vote pretty quickly after the presentations."
Under school policy, if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the committee's review, she may then appeal to a review committee appointed by the Board of Education. If still dissatisfied, a complainant can go to the Board of Education, which renders a final decision.
Ashcraft said the initial recommendation to uphold the book would not be formal until Fonseca receives the WHS committee's report, but "the expectation is that (Lesesne) is going to request an appeal."
"The book is going to be on hold until the appeal process is resolved," he added. The class was supposed to begin reading the book last week.
Whitaker and English department Chairwoman Kelly Stollings previously said it would be inappropriate to comment while the appeal procedure was underway. Whitaker did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Friday afternoon.