Too mature for middle schoolers? Graphic memoir causing controversy in West Michigan school

Posted at 9:29 PM, Oct 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-22 23:03:25-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A book with adult content that includes rape and sex slavery is the subject of some controversy and anger from parents.

Wednesday, the book found its way into a middle school classroom in the Northview Public Schools after it was selected by a teacher as a reading assignment for middle school students in her class. It’s not required reading, but every student had access to the book.

A Stolen Life: A Memoir, written by Jaycee Dugard, contains strong language and sexually explicit situations that she experienced as an 11-year-old girl.  School officials are well aware of the book's content.

Crossroads Middle School sent parents a letter at the beginning of the year, first to explain their goal of having students read 40 books this year and, second, to inform parents that each classroom is sensitive to having appropriate reading material for the children. But some parents are upset and say one book slipped through the cracks.

“The book does have some graphic passages in it,” said Michael F. Paskewicz, Northview superintendent.

The book tells the story of Jaycee Dugard, the little girl who was abducted and held captive in California and forced into violent sexual situations for 18 years. Rape, child pornography, and adult language are described in graphic detail.

Paskewicz believes the book was actually recommended by other English teachers.

“There may be other controversial titles throughout our system, or any school system for that matter,” said Paskewicz. “But the idea is, how do you help select a book for a kid that's appropriate?”

“I would have never of dreamed you had this on your shelf in a million years,” said Heather Davis.

Davis’ 11-year-old came home with the book. She saw that he was upset, and after thumbing through the book, she quickly found out why.

Paskewicz says it’s too soon to be taking books off of the shelves but believes something needs to be done.

“We're going to review the book internally this week, and we'll use a team of English teachers to decide if it was appropriate or not,” said Paskewicz.

If the book is deemed inappropriate, it will be removed from the classroom library.