By Patrick Sullivan
LAST JULY, the Santa Rosa Board of Education faced the first official controversy over a book since religious conservatives objected to Arthur Miller's The Crucible in the late 1970s. Responding to a citizen complaint against Always Running, the board voted unanimously to leave the book in high school libraries but remove it from classrooms, even as optional reading.
Or so most observers thought. But now, board president Hugh Futrell says that while teachers cannot require students to read Always Running, educators are permitted to suggest the book as optional reading material: "They can put it on the list of books they suggest," Futrell explains.
But the superintendent's office--which is charged with actually enforcing school board actions--had a different interpretation. According to Larry White, assistant superintendent, the board's motion seems to mean that teachers cannot offer the book to students at all: "As I read it, that's very clear to me," White says.
Are some teachers holding back from suggesting the book out of confusion over what's permitted? Futrell says that could be the case.
"If there is confusion, I imagine people would take the safest course," he says, adding that the board has no plans to clarify the issue.
From the February 4-10, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
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