Whittier Middle School (normanpublicschools.org)

Why Karin Perry?

Karin Perry is the former librarian at Whittier Middle School who was responsible for organizing Ellen Hopkins’s visit to Norman. Aside from Hopkins herself and the anonymous (to us) complainant, she is the main player in our censorship case. She dealt directly with Ellen Hopkins and was responsible for moving her talk to a local church when the event was canceled by the administration. For these reasons, we think she will be a perfect candidate for a detailed interview to include on our website.

Although Perry now lives and works in Texas, she has graciously allowed us to send her interview questions by email. She is our key to understanding the general mood of Whittier’s student body and parent groups during the case; through her, we can hopefully get a better sense of what it was like to be working or going to school at Whittier during a heated challenge like this. By interviewing someone so directly involved, we will be able to gauge some of the real, human reactions to the Hopkins challenge: things we can’t get from newspaper articles.

Interview Questions

Because we already know much of how the story unfolded, we do not want to waste time asking for summaries of the key events. Several of our questions instead focus on why things happened, and how they fit into their social contexts. We want to know her perception of the dispute, including how she feels like the school responded.

Our questions are as follows:

What are your feelings about the suitability of Glass and the rest of the Crank series for middle school audiences?

Were you surprised by the complaint? How often did books get challenged while you worked there?

Were students and parents at Whittier Middle School aware that Ellen Hopkin’s books and visit were being challenged? If so, how did they seem to feel about it?

To what extent do you think the complainant’s issues with the book reflected concerns of the Whittier or Norman communities? Do you feel as though it was an isolated incident, or indicative of larger trends?

Do you feel like the administration of Norman Public Schools and Whittier Middle School, including Superintendent Siano, handled the Ellen Hopkins case effectively and fairly? Why or why not?

How did Ellen Hopkins handle the situation once her talk was moved?

What effect has this case had on the overall discussion about book censorship? Do you think censorship issues are important and still worth talking about?

While some of these questions are relatively broad, they are all worded to avoid simple, one-word answers. Although it would be ideal to conduct a face-to-face interview with Karin Perry, an email interview will allow her to potentially answer much more thoroughly than she would be able to in person. We will also not have to worry about recording, editing, and transcribing this interview, which will make it much easier to incorporate into our site. I’m looking forward to the extra dimensions and details Karin’s interview could provide to our understanding of the case!