Battle of the books: Mason schools change 8th grade novel

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“Lord of the Flies” is out as the only novel Mason 8th graders read and “Monster,”  about a 17-year old Black amateur filmmaker on trial for murder, is in. The Mason School Board discussed this and other language arts changes on Feb. 14. 

Cover of book "Monster"
Cover of book “Monster”

Curriculum Director Matt Stuard introduced the change.

The other English unit, A Moral Compass unit, did not have a novel. Teachers Laura Lewis and Cindy McCormick said “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers was a good fit for the moral compass  unit and reflected the diversity of the student population. 

Stuard said, “I would say that this wasn’t necessarily because of the work of the DEI committee. I think it falls within a lot of the things the committee has been having discussion about.”

The novel sparked controversy during the meeting for its intense language used and vivid descriptions of violence. 

Board Trustee Michael Kelly said, “I would be inclined to pass on this and find, what I believe, to be better alternatives in terms of the messaging. If it’s the writing language or the writing style or story development, I think there would certainly be plenty of alternative choices that would be potentially less controversial.” 

The handling of controversial situations is in policy 2240. This policy came into play before the vote as a parent had an issue with materials their student was reading. 

“It wasn’t necessarily that it was inappropriate, it was that this parent was not comfortable with this material,” Evans said. “The parent felt supported and the student proceeded with the alternate assignment. It adds transparency within the community, so they are aware if there are issues that need to be discussed.” 

The board approved the motion to change novels 6-1 with Kelly voting opposed. The Mason Public Schools Board of Education plans to meet again March 14. 

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