Cape Henlopen school board voted 6-1 to withdraw a recommended reading list for incoming freshmen, but not before reinstating a book that had been removed from the list in June.
The board also decided students may read any book they choose to complete assignments for honors and college prep students. Honors students had been required to read two books from a recommended list before entering ninth grade; college prep were required to read one.
"I am going to make sure a new policy is clear about age-appropriate material," said board member Jen Burton at the July 24 school board meeting. "We must be mindful of our policies. We didn't have a summer reading list policy."
In an earlier interview, Principal Brian Donahue said a group of high school educators decided to use the Blue Hen List created by state librarians for Cape's summer reading list. The Blue Hen list is made up of contemporary, young adult literature intended to keep students reading throughout the summer months.
At issue was "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," a book on the list that the board removed in June after receiving complaints from parents.
Harry Metcalfe and his wife, Celeste, were part of a group of parents who took issue with the language and sexually explicit nature of the book. The book is about a young girl who is gay. Throughout the nearly 500-page book, however, conversations are laced with profanity; the main character, Cameron, has several sexual relationships explained in detail, and drug and alcohol use are commonplace.
"You have to think of the children when you pick out the books," Celeste Metcalfe said.
Parent Jaclyn Hesson also took issue with the message the book could send to young people.
"She's promiscuous, drinks all the time and does drugs," Hesson said. "Are we pulling students up, or are we just handing them stuff?"
While the Metcalfes and Hesson represented about half of 50 people who attended the meeting, just as many continued to support the book and the message it offers for gay students.
Recent Cape graduate Madison Bacon said gay kids are bullied in school, and "The Miseducation of Cameron Post" could help them handle adversity.
"It is a wonderful book. When I heard you removed it, it made me very sad," she said.
Others in the audience said the school board's vote to remove the book is evidence of discrimination.
"In my opinion you're discriminating against a group of people I represent," said Joan Deaver, a member of Sussex County Council.