School system in Va. won't teach version of Anne Frank book
Culpeper County public school officials have decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank's diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, after a parent complained that the book includes sexually explicit material and homosexual themes.
"The Diary of a Young Girl: the Definitive Edition," which was published on the 50th anniversary of Frank's death in a concentration camp, will not be used in the future, said James Allen, director of instruction for the 7,600-student system. The school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints about instructional materials, Allen said.
The diary documents the daily life of a Jewish girl in Amsterdam during World War II. Frank started writing on her 13th birthday, shortly before her family went into hiding in an annex of an office building. The version of the diary in question includes passages previously excluded from the widely read original edition, first published in Dutch in 1947. That book was arranged by her father, the only survivor in her immediate family. Some of the extra passages detail her emerging sexual desires; others include unflattering descriptions of her mother and other people living together.
Allen said that the more recent version will remain in the school library and that the earlier version will be used in classes. The 1955 play based on Frank's experiences also has been a part of the eighth-grade curriculum for many years. The diary's "universal theme, that there is good in everyone, resonates with these kids," Allen said.
The decision was made in November and published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on Thursday.
Culpeper's policy on "public complaints about learning resources" calls for complaints to be submitted in writing and for a review committee to research the materials and deliberate, Allen said. In this case, the policy was not followed. Allen said the parent registered the complaint orally, no review committee was created and a decision was made quickly by at least one school administrator. He said he is uncertain about the details because he was out of town.
"The person came in, and the decision was made that day . . . and that's fine. We would like to have had it in writing. It just did not happen," Allen said.
Hasty decisions to restrict access to some books do "a disservice to students," said Angela Maycock, assistant director of the office for intellectual freedom at the American Library Association.
"Something that one individual finds controversial or offensive or objectionable may be really valuable to other learners in that community," she said.
The ALA has documented only six challenges to "The Diary of Anne Frank" since it began monitoring formal written complaints to remove or restrict books in 1990. Most of the concerns were about sexually explicit material, Maycock said. One record dating to 1983 from an Alabama textbook committee said the book was "a real downer" and called for its rejection from schools.
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