A Pocahontas County High School teacher is under fire from some members of the community for introducing the books "The Hate U Give" and "This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons to Wake up, Take Action, and Do the Work" in an honors English class.
The Pocahontas County Board of Education addressed the matter last night. Jennifer Williams of Families Leading Change and Our Future West Virginia presented a letter signed by more than 20 organizations including ACLU-WV in support of the teacher and her decision to introduce students to these books.
The letter (see the full letter below) outlines the teacher’s adherence to policy and the importance of having thoughtful discussions about systemic racism and current societal events and issues.
Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent Terrence Beam spoke at the meeting in support of the teaching of these topics.
“Even though the conversation was spurred by these two books,” he said, “it has made me even more aware that the topics of diversity, racism and multi-cultural awareness are topics that need and should be taught to our students.”
Most of the communications Beam received regarding the matter were in support of the books. He said preventing students from reading them would be a disservice.
Beam has proposed a plan for the following school year to provide parents with information about the books and writings being used in their child’s classroom at the beginning of the year so they can see what is being taught and request an alternate assignment if they choose. He has also proposed a committee of parents and teachers “to discuss and address issues and instruction dealing with diversity and racism.”
We will continue to monitor this situation closely in partnership with many other concerned individuals and organizations. Books - particularly those that help students explore and discuss the realities of systemic racism and other similar topics - should never be banned by schools. It is more important than ever that we have honest conversations about our history of systemic racism and its impact on people today. ACLU-WV is grateful for teachers who ensure these discussions are taking place.