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Park Cities Parents Want Their Kids to Read the Classics, Not These Newfangled Porn Novels

Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes and Steven Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower have two things in common. They both delve into complicated topics of teenage bullying and social struggles, and Highland Park High School parents don't want their kids reading either of them. Both contain passages of sexually explicit situations, which some parents say are pornographic.

In a flurry of e-mails exchanged between furious parents and HPHS English teachers last month, parents expressed their frustration that kids were reading sexually-charged contemporary fiction and not enough from the classical literary canon.

"It's just wrong for me to sit back and not try to improve the quality of literature for our kids," HPHS parent Tavia Hunt (former Miss Kansas 1993, and married to one of Dallas' wealthiest and most influential families -- yes, those Hunts) told Park Cities People.

Hunt was one of several parents who complained about the literary selection, saying that parents were not informed about controversial material on the Recommended Outside Reading list. "We don't want to stomp on anybody else's right to read the material," she said. "We just want true and informed consent."

But HPHS administration are defending the selection, saying contemporary literature is an important and necessary component to the curriculum. "We don't want to deny students access to certain piece of literature just because it hasn't gone through decades of review," Highland Park High School principal Walter Kelly tells Unfair Park. He says contemporary literature allows kids to relate to fiction, and makes all fiction -- including the classics -- more accessible and enjoyable to students.

Kelly says the selection process for the expansive Recommended Outside Reading list includes a committee, which includes parents, to review the books. Until recently, the committee had a hard time recruiting parents to join. The Recommended list gives students a choice from more than 250 works and is just a part of English department curriculum, which focuses on required reading and supplementary materials.

"Parents always have the option to refuse having their kids read a book, and it's our responsibility to provide an alternative work," says Kelly. "If a parent disagrees, they can request that the book is removed from the list. And for those books that are questionable, the department does send home a note."

Kelly also stressed selecting works with appropriate maturity level for students. In a letter sent out to parents in May, Kelly described the fiction selection process and stressed that HPHS works to "meet the developmentally appropriate balance of challenging our students' thinking while upholding community values and standards."

The English department at HPHS sends home notes for "questionable" novels, but notes are not sent home for classic works, which include Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. But since parents have expressed concern about sexually-charged literature at HPHS, these novels haven't caused any controversy.


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