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Parent Files Final Appeal for WHS Book Challenge, School Board Expected To Entertain Matter in February

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 15, 2014. Chastity Lesesne, the parent challenging “The House of the Spirits” novel taught in a 10th grade honors English class at Watauga High School, has formally filed a final appeal with Watauga County Schools.

On Wednesday morning, WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said the school system just received the formal appeal and expects it to be heard at the Feb. 10 meeting of the Watauga County Board of Education.

house of spiritsIn the past three months, two other committees have voted to retain the book. In October, the Media/Technology Advisory Committee for Watauga High School, which is chaired by Assistant Principal Craig Wright and is comprised of students, parents and teachers, voted unanimously to retain the book, and in December, a second review committee comprised of WCS interim Supt. David Fonseca, other county educators and a community representative. 

Speaking yesterday, Ashcraft mentioned that Lesesne only had one week left to file her final appeal, leaving the Watauga County Board of Education with the last word on the controversial matter, which has certainly been heard well beyond the county border.

Along with the county school system and Isabel Allende’s novel being mentioned in international news outlets, the School Library Journal first published a letter that Allende herself wrote to the school board members and other local administrators in November, defending her novel that follows a family through the Chilean Revolution during the ‘70s.

Aside from other harsh words comparing censorship of the book to police states of Cuba and North Korea and religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, Allende said that graphic sections of the novel have been taken out of context.

At the second appeal in December, Lesesne read portions of the book that consisted of a section about the rape of a 15-year-old girl; a character discussing the loss of her virginity to rape; sex with a prostitute; and a man molesting a 6-year-old.

Even Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners jumped into the fray with strong objections of the book that they described as “filth.” They also called the process of this book being taught in the school system as a “joke” and an “egregious violation.”

At the joint meeting to discuss the long-term plans of the school system in late November, Chair Nathan Miller of the board of commissioners suggested that the school board and superintendent bypass the internal review and appeals process to veto the book.

While the February meeting to feature the final appeal will be four months after Miller’s suggestion, the matter will finally appear before the Watauga County Board of Education to be resolved one way or the other. 

While the ongoing appeals process continues, the teaching of the book has been placed on hold. 

Read prior articles on the topic:

Dec. 13, 2013: Committee Retains ‘The House of the Spirits’ After Hearing Whitaker, Lesesne at Appeal Thursday

Dec. 6 2013: Local Book Stores, Libraries See Spike In Demand For ‘The House Of The Spirits’ Since Book Challenge In Oct.

Dec. 4, 2013: Standing Room Only in Anne Belk Library at ASU for ‘The House of The Spirits’ Teach-In Tuesday Night

Nov. 27, 2013: Coalition Against Censorship Pens Letter To WCS Book Challenge Review Committee: ‘Retain the Book’

Nov. 21, 2013: Allende, Author of ‘The House of the Spirits,’ Defends Book, Pens Letter to Watauga School Board, Staff

Nov. 18, 2013: GOP Commissioners Voice Objections To Watauga School Board Regarding ‘The House of Spirits’ Novel at WHS

Nov. 8, 2013: Members Selected for Committee To Review Challenge of ‘The House of Spirits’ in Watauga Classroom

Nov. 6, 2013: Parents Opposed To ‘The House of Spirits’ Speak During School Board Meeting: ‘Not An Issue Of Censorship’  

Nov. 1, 2013: WHS Teachers Defend “The House Of Spirits,” Concerned Parent Moves To File Appeal To Review Committee