Last Monday, we finally received answers from Karin Perry to the questions we sent her! They are informative and to-the-point and will help tremendously in our efforts to accurately represent the events and environment surrounding the Whittier Middle School case.
What Perry Had to Say
When asked whether or not she thought Glass was appropriate for middle school students, she gave a resounding affirmative. She cites the fact that the book was only ever checked out by older middle school students at Whittier, 7th or 8th graders, rather than younger ones. She suggests, like the Reconsideration Committee did, that the book explores important topics like drug addiction, allowing students to “experience these things from the safety of a book.”
Interestingly, Perry does not think that the incident at Whittier was symptomatic of any larger trends in Oklahoma or Norman. In her 5 years at Whittier it was the only challenge case, and she believes it to be “an isolated incident.” For the section of our website about Norman, we will try to come up with potential explanations or influences on the case by looking at political, religious, and socioeconomic demographics for the area. However, Karin Perry may well be right; either way, her opinion is important in understanding how the event was perceived at Whittier.
When we asked her about the Norman Public Schools administration, Karin Perry expressed similar opinions to Ellen Hopkins herself: she characterized the administration’s response to the parent complaint as a “knee jerk reaction.” Instead of canceling Ellen’s visit to Whittier, she says they could have just exempted the parent’s student from the event. She was glad that the proper Reconsideration process was followed and that Hopkins’s books were eventually ruled appropriate, but she thinks the process should have been done faster. As of last week, she says the books are still on Whittier’s shelves. (yay!)
Ultimately, Karin Perry sees the heart of the issue to be that the Whittier parent should not have been able to affect the educational experiences of other children. When we asked her how the Whittier case fits into censorship more generally, she stressed the importance of being aware of the appropriate way to challenge a book, as well as the idea that one parent’s opposition shouldn’t result in an entire school missing out on opportunities like Hopkins’s event.
Now that we have Karin Perry’s thoughts, we can use them to start adding meat to some of our website sections along with designating a section for the complete questions and answers. While Baylee works on the Norman and “About the Case” sections, I’m focusing on gathering permissions. I am still waiting to hear back from The Daily Oklahoman for permission to use clippings and headlines on the site. Pretty soon Baylee and I will sit down to work out final touches on the site to prepare it for the first draft’s due date!