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Regarding CCPS Reading Lists

July 1, 2016

Regarding the Chesterfield County Public School Reading Lists:

Representing a group of about 20 parents in my district, several of my constituents approached me with concerns about the reading lists for middle and high school students in Chesterfield County Public Schools. I encouraged them to work with the School Board and the schools. A number of them attended the Chesterfield School Board meeting in June, shared their concerns as well as excerpts from the books, and then asked the Board for a complete review of the procedure for choosing books for the children of CCPS, which I sincerely hope will happen. I believe we should try and find solutions at the level closest to the people - which is the local level. 

As a mom of four teenage kids, three of whom are in Chesterfield County public schools, I am also concerned about the age-appropriateness of the recent recommended reading lists. Although I am a State Senator, I am a mom first. “Working in partnership with school and family, all learners will understand, model and embrace the important attitudes and attributes necessary to be responsible global citizens.”- which include respect, responsibility, honesty and accountability, according to the CCPS website. I believe part of this partnership is the ability of parents to voice concerns without being drowned out by opponents as they try to partner with the school in producing responsible citizens that respect themselves and others.

The concerned parents feel there is a disconnect between the stated mission of teaching respect for others and the reading lists, which are passively or actively endorsing titles which may condone or normalize violent and abusive behavior. As pointed out by one of the parents, a social services professional, a number of the titles with graphic content on the reading lists would further traumatize her students who are victims of abuse, sexual assault, or other traumatic experiences due to their explicit content. She asked for a minimum of parental alerts on any book lists for violent and adult content. The parents also brought to the Board's attention that several of the titles on the middle school lists are listed as high school level reading by the publisher due to adult content.

This issue was relatively fresh coming out of session where a bill passed the House unanimously, and then passed the Senate, but was vetoed by the Governor. The bill, patroned by Delegate Landes, was simply to notify parents if explicit content was on the reading requirements for the class, with an option for that parent to choose an alternate book for their student. This would have been a common sense, individualized approach to solving disagreements over what content is age-appropriate. 

Choices are a part of every process. Books are selected and rejected by any number of criteria in regards to their content every time teachers and schools review their lists and decide on curriculum. Omitting titles is a regular part of the process, but not automatically a violation of free speech. Freedom of speech does not mean we have to promote every book in print as recommended reading for every age level within our schools. We should be allowed to encourage commonsense leadership on what is age-appropriate material when choosing curriculum and reading lists, and the content in our school libraries.  

While it makes for great headlines and sound bites for those in opposition, recommending that titles be removed from suggested reading lists due to age inappropriate content is not a violation of free speech. Teachers and librarians and school boards are tasked with this great responsibility of teaching our children in partnership with families, as it says on the CCPS website. Parents are just trying to participate in this process.

As you know, I’ve been very accessible to the press, but reporters often come with their own agenda. Always remember to read everything with a grain of salt, and be willing to have honest discussion. I am confident we can reach positive solutions for our concerns. 

It truly is an honor to serve the 11th Senatorial District. We have great schools here in Chesterfield, with education professionals who pour their heart into their work. Our School Board is made of outstanding people who truly want to empower our children in a positive way. I am thankful they are open to discussion with concerned parents.

Best Regards,

Senator Amanda Chase


The following are a few examples presented by concerned parents who feel the adult themes with explicit depictions are not age-appropriate:

Dope Sick - recommended for CCPS middle schoolers even though it’s supposedly a book for high schoolers; Drug-related and violent content. Shooting cops is among the violent themes.

Tyrell - recommended for CCPS middle schoolers even though it’s supposedly a book for high schoolers; Tyrell  is loaded with sex, language, and drugs, all of which are engaged in by the main character, who is 15. Swearing (including the "N" word) is frequent, as are sexual encounters between teens and sometimes between teens and adults. Most of the characters, including the main character and his mother, use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, and some secondary characters use and sell harder drugs; adults (including parents) give alcohol and marijuana to minors.

Eleanor and Park -  It was removed from the reading list in 2015 but was put back on in 2016.
Thought to be a “tame” book by many parents, most don’t realize there are 227 instances of course language and graphic sexuality; The word F*** is used 35 times, as well as derogatory and sexually explicit language.

He Said She Said - sex talk and sexual situations, underage and oral sex, sex tape, discussion of abortion, drug use, violence

How to Lead a Life of Crime - Teen characters are all criminals - thieves, drug addicts and dealers, computer hackers, prostitutes, murderers, or runaways. Teen characters are viciously beaten up, murdered, or commit suicide, and there’s an attempted rape scene, a severed head shown, and strong language.

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