Jefferson County won’t ban classic novel

RIGBY — Administrators in the Jefferson County School District say they won’t ban a classic novel being taught in two senior government classes at Rigby High School.

“Teachers will continue to use the novel ‘1984,’” Jefferson County superintendent Lisa Sherick told Idaho Education News Tuesday.

Instead of nixing the classic dystopian novel, Sherick said, Rigby High teachers will offer an alternative book to address parental concerns over a sexually charged passage in “1984.”

Backlash over the prospect of banning the novel erupted last week after at least one parent expressed concerns over the passage.

According to Sherick, Rigby High School principal Brian Lords told teachers using the book to pause instruction while administrators reviewed board policy surrounding the issue.

Administrators eventually determined that board policy allows for alternative assignments to be used when objections over content are made.

But administrators’ clarification to offer an alternative assignment for “1984” didn’t reach the classroom, Sherick said, “and books were collected from students.”

As a result, administrators advised staff to return the novels and continue with instruction once word reached the district office, Sherick said.

One Rigby High School government teacher refused to clarify the issue, but several Rigby High students say their teachers made it clear that the book was being banned — and that the district backpedaled once word began to spread.

“The administration admitted that they didn’t follow their own policy,” said senior Natalie Gittins.

Sherick said: “We take parent concerns seriously and have a policy in place to identify options in rare circumstances when a parent objects to specific classroom materials.”

An anonymously launched online petition aimed at thwarting the prospect of banning the novel last week garnered over 537 signatures and 215 comments from people across Idaho, and overseas.

The Jefferson County School District is located in East Idaho, 15 miles north of Idaho Falls.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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