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

By Mark S. Kenna

Nov. 6, 2013. Concerned parents opposed to the “House of the Spirits” spoke during the public comment section of the Watauga County Board of Education meeting last Monday.

Of the three who spoke, each parent opposed “The House of the Spirits” being appropriate curriculum.

 Chastity Lesesne, the concerned parent who filed the original appeal on Oct. 14, spoke first.  She introduced her point by emphasizing that her issue with the curriculum has noting to do with censorship, book burning or book banning.

“As the book challenge continues and the appeal process begins I just want to make sure that I convey myself well and respectfully…this is not an issue of censorship,” Lesesne said. “This is not an issue of book burning, book banning. This is an issue of required reading in our school system.”

Another parent, Ken Sevensky, cited the issue of offering an alternative without explaining why there is one.

“If there is an alternate course of study or alternate assignment that students are given, parents need to be notified long in advance why there is an alternate,” Sevensky said. “If there is something that is possibly objectionable, I think parents need to be given clearly why that material is objectionable. Rather than being given a list and saying, ‘here is an alternate,” without giving additional information about it.”

As a way of adding to his point, Sevensky asked for permission to read an excerpt of the book during his time. The request was denied by Chair Dr. Lee Warren. 

“If it cannot be read in a public forum, then why are we asking our students to read this literature?” Sevensky asked.

Sevensky also urged the board to send a letter to the state saying that the Watauga County school system stands against obscene literature. 

The last parent to speak about the book, Lisa Sloboda, read “The House of the Spirits” in its entirety and found it inappropriate for her teenagers. 

“I would desire for it to be taken out of any classroom. This is not against the teacher. This is not against the person who wrote this book, Isabel Allende,” Sloboda said.  “This is about what is appropriate for this age level, and this book is not appropriate; this book is obscene.”

One of Sloboda’s children read the alternative to “The House of the Spirits” last year.  Choosing the alternative took Sloboda’s daughter out of the classroom and in the hallway.

“She missed a lot of opportunities and did not feel like a part of the classroom,” Sloboda added.

After the report from Watauga High School’s Media/Technology Advisory Committee, Lesesne decided to continue the appeal process to the second level.  A committee formed by the Board of Education will review the material next.  If the committee’s ruling is not satisfactory to Lesesne, she can appeal to the school board, the last level of the appeal process. 

The book will be on hold and will not be taught during this semester, Supt. David Fonseca said.  

“We are going to do it right. I would say for our parents and students to take into consideration that this is a lengthy process, and we are going to do it right,” Fonseca, said. 

Read a prior story about this issue. 

WHS Teachers Defend “The House Of Spirits,” Concerned Parent Moves To File Appeal To Review Committee