Beaverton School District bans book from middle schools

Beaverton School District Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips decided to allow "Stick" only in junior and senior high-school classrooms. (KATU Photo)

A popular young-adult novel is now banned from Beaverton School District middle schools and is only allowed in junior and senior high-school classrooms.

Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips made the decision at the end of a formal review process initiated by a parent and student with concerns about the book "Stick," by Andrew Smith. The district said it was due to vulgar language.

"Stick" was used as supplemental reading material in a high school classroom. District spokesperson Maureen Wheeler said students could read it as part of a reading group.

The book is about two young teens who have been living in an abusive home. When they leave that home, they realize how bad things really were.

A parent and student went to the district because they thought parts of "Stick" were inappropriate, which led to a formal review process. As part of that process, the district created a review committee to read and discuss the book.

Two community members, two English teachers, a library specialist teacher, and an administrator were all on the committee. The parent and student who filed the complaint were also there for the review process.

The committee recommended the district keep the book in place, but Phillips decided not to allow it in district middle schools and only allow it in high school classrooms "primarily attended by junior and senior students.”

“[Phillips] reviewed the materials, listened to deliberations of the committee, and thought the book, while it had a great storyline that touched on many different issues, there was a level of vulgarity and language that was concerning for certain levels of instruction and so then referred it to the high school level,” Wheeler said.

Steffanie Colvig, the mother of an eighth-grader in the school district, doesn’t agree with Phillips’ decision.

“My son came home from school the night before last and he mentioned that he had heard there was a book that had been banned and he wanted to know about it,” said Colvig.

She is currently reading the book, but does not think it is inappropriate.

“My real question is why? What makes that possible? If we have a committee process, why don't we follow the recommendation?” asked Colvig.

District policy states the deputy superintendent has the final say in the matter.

“Whether people like the material of the book or not, it is a fact that unfortunately those horrible things happen, and there are kids out there that connect to that. They can see something in there that helps them feel inspired to get out of their situation,” Colvig said.

Smith, the author of "Stick" says his books are in school libraries across the country. He is also a high school teacher in southern California.

“I think that's absolutely ludicrous. This is why librarians and teachers are so important and the connections they make with young readers as they're not just exploring and developing their literacy, but they're also exploring and developing their awareness and the bigger picture outside of themselves,” said Smith in a phone interview.

Smith says he takes situations like this personally. He says Phillips' decision comes from a place of ignorance.

“When somebody just comes in, blocks, interferes with a kid’s access to information or viewpoints, that’s absolutely the opposite of what we need right now,” said Smith.

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