The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 17, 2012

Parents oppose book used in Shade-Central City classes

CAIRNBROOK — Is the account of a woman’s difficult upbringing suitable reading for a 10th-grade English class?

Some parents in the Shade-Central City High School District say no, and are asking the district to remove Jeannette Walls’ best-selling 2005 memoir, “The Glass Castle,” from the curriculum.

Walls candidly describes her experiences growing up – drinking ditch water, enduring sexual assault, witnessing gunplay, tossing the family cat out the car window – all amid a steady stream of profanity.

In various interviews, Walls, a well-known journalist, has called the book an homage to her parents and the family’s vagabond lifestyle.

But some local parents see the work as too graphic for classroom reading.

“If you understand the way 15-year-olds think, everything that is grotesque, extreme – they want more of it,” parent Gary Lambert said. “The problem is, they’re using it as a textbook in class. It makes the behaviors in there more acceptable.”

Lambert and the Rev. Randy Reynolds of the Central City Christian Church denounced the book at a recent school board meeting.

They say they do not oppose leaving “The Glass Castle” in the school library, but want tighter controls on what’s taught in class – though parental permission was required for this book.

March 9 was the deadline for students to have read “The Glass Castle,” so any changes made by the school board would not affect the use of that book this school year.

The next meeting of the school board is April 2 at the high school.

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