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Francois meets with parent regarding ‘Persepolis’ novel
Feeling the current system is far too open, a group of parents has proposed the Northshore School District radically change its curriculum selection process.
Laying claim to at least a few hundred supporters, parent Dave Starck took his arguments directly to district Superintendent Larry Francois Jan. 23.
Starck argues that if mediums such as movies, TV shows and even video games can carry ratings and parental warnings, maybe books and materials taught by the district can come with similar notices.
“Parents should have the last word,” he said.
The issue of how the district approves materials came into question when Starck and other parents objected to the teaching in Northshore junior high schools of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel “Persepolis.”
The movie of the same name also was scheduled to be shown in schools.
“Persepolis” is an autobiographical account of a young woman growing up in Iran. The book is open in its treatment of how that country’s strict Muslim society can be seen as oppressive and often violent.
Starck has said both the book and movie contain language banned by the Federal Communications Commission. He further noted any student using such language would be held accountable under the Northshore district’s codes of conduct.
At the same time, the novel’s story has come under fire, with parents especially objecting to a scene in which a man is depicted urinating on another man after the second man has been tortured.
Starck said he appreciated the two-hour meeting with Francois, which also included School Board President Cathy Swanson and board member Dawn McCravey.
“From my perspective, it didn’t solve anything,” Francois said. “But it got to the point where we had some good dialogue and communication and a greater level of understanding.”
Francois said Starck talked about revamping how the district chooses its curriculum.
“I don’t know that we came to a meeting of the minds as to exactly what that would look like,” Francois added.
According to Starck, the district essentially has no process to weed out potentially offensive materials.
“I really do believe there is no selection process,” Starck said.
Starck argues “Persepolis,” both the book and the movie, are “just the tip of the iceberg.” He talked about another novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which he said contains scenes of masturbation.
“There’s a divergence in world view,” Starck contends.
There also seem to be a divergence in opinion as to just how the district handles potentially sensitive materials such as “Persepolis.” Some parents have said students were given the opportunity to “opt out” of the assignment, while others, in e-mails and comments sent to the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, say “no opt” plan existed. In any case, Starck argues students were exposed to the book before parents had a chance to review it.
District Director of Communications Susan Stoltzfus insisted students did have alternative assignments available to them. In the case of the film, Stoltzfus said it never was approved as part of the curriculum for eighth- and ninth-grade students. She said teachers who want to show the film need to obtain approval from their building principal and send permission slips home to parents prior to any screening.
Starck and other parents met earlier this month with the Northshore curriculum review committee. The group voted unanimously that “Persepolis” would remain an approved book. Starck said he intends to appeal that decision.