BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — A group of parents have been pushing to get the book Dragonwings pulled from the sixth-grade curriculum at Union Grove Middle School in Blount County.
The book describes a Chinese boy’s immigration to America and his experiences in the early 1900s. It’s the book’s terminology, profanity, violence, drug use, and depiction of prostitutes causing some parents to question its place on the required reading list.
“I was just like any other parent, I had my head in the sand, didn’t really keep up with what my kid was reading,” began David Coleman, a parent of one Union Grove Middle School student.
Coleman spoke about when Dragonwings first caused him to raise an eyebrow. “When it starts in on ‘white demons’ it got my attention,” he explained. “It says anything that is American and/or white is a demon, a demoness for females, the English language is demonic, and it goes on for 300 pages.”
Coleman said all this in addition to the profanity and other graphic images in the book lead to him pulling his daughter from the class. He also asked the district for an official review.
“They made the decision to remove the book from the school,” said Coleman of the review committee. A letter was also sent to Union Grove’s sixth-grade parents to confirm the change in curriculum.
Now that the book has been removed from his daughter’s class, he said he’s confused about why it’s not being removed from the other Blount County middle school classrooms.
Coleman affirmed he wants students to be informed and learn from the past, he just felt it could be done with a more appropriate book.
“I am all in favor of educating our kids on the sins of our past, there’s no question the sins are many,” said Coleman. “We should not avoid discussing the racism of our nation’s past, it is important that we learn from our past, but this book has the wrong approach.”
Blount County School District officials sent a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side News about the debate. It can be read in its entirety below.
Blount County Schools teaches Tennessee state standards. Our curriculum containing high quality instructional materials has been approved by the Tennessee Department of Education. Our district is following board policy 4.403 related to reconsideration of instructional materials. If families have a question about their child’s instructional program, our team is happy to help. Please reach out to the district office or your child’s school for additional information. Blount County Schools is committed to graduating students equipped to achieve excellence.Blount County School District
Coleman said as he pushes forward, he wanted the school district officials to know he’s not against them.
“We’re trying to draw a line in the sand that says we are going to follow policies moving forward, we are going to have parents’ involvement in the curriculum,” he said. “That’s the policy that’s on your website.”
Coleman also clarified that he is not asking the book be removed from the Blount County School libraries, he just does not want it to be part of the required curriculum.
Coleman said he is concerned the approval process for the reading materials was not followed. He has submitted a public records request to dig deeper into the process.
There is also a petition to remove Dragonwings from required coursework at all Blount County Schools. As of Monday evening, more than 130 people have signed it.