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‘Persepolis’ is ‘inappropriate’ for students, their parents say

Generally critically acclaimed, Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” is an autobiographical account of a young woman growing up in Iran after that country’s cultural revolution of 1979.

Made into an award-winning animated film in 2007, the illustrated or graphic novel, also is now part of the approved curriculum for eighth-and ninth-grade English classes in the Northshore School District. So is the film of the same name.

Those last facts aren’t sitting well with some parents, who see the book and the film’s frank, open portrayals of life in a sometimes violent society as simply inappropriate for a junior-high setting.

Parent Dave Starck said both the book and movie contain language that would not be acceptable over the open airways via either TV or radio. He described one scene in the book as illustrating a man holding his genitals while urinating on another man after the second man was tortured.

“The book is simply sexually charged and very offensive,” he added.

Starck and reportedly some 30 other parents took their arguments to a meeting of the Northshore School District curriculum review committee Jan. 12.

The committee voted unanimously that both the book and the movie can be taught in district classrooms.

“They basically said, ‘Thanks for coming, but we’re keeping the book,’” Starck said.

According to Starck, the schools are not even enforcing their own codes as to what is acceptable conduct or behavior in the district. He said any student using some of the language in the book and movie would be held accountable. Perhaps even more bothersome to Starck is his claim the district did not provide any warning to parents of the material in the book, and further did not provide any sort of alternative assignment.

“We followed all of the processes with regards to curriculum approval,” countered district Director of Communications Susan Stoltzfus. She denied Starck’s claim students had no options to reading the book, stating that alternative assignments were available. Stoltzfus added permission slips were sent to parents prior to the movie being shown in any classroom.

According to Stoltzfus, most of the parents objecting to the book have focused their attention on two specific pages in the novel. According to Stoltzfus, at the Jan. 12 meeting of the district board of directors, two parents — including Starck — spoke out against the book, while one spoke in favor of it.

Starck and other parents upset over “Persepolis” do not appear ready to give up their fight. An electronic campaign seems to be under way, with e-mails circulating urging parents to write or contact district Superintendent Larry Francois and express their displeasure over the material.

“The district is simply being irresponsible,” Starck said. “The question is, is it (‘Persepolis’) appropriate and uplifting for our kids?”

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