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Gilford school district working on more parental notice on books

Union Leader Correspondent

May 08. 2014 8:43PM

GILFORD — After a parent was arrested for complaining about a sexually explicit book assigned to his high school freshman daughter, school district officials are proposing a policy that would make information available to parents sooner about classroom reading assignments.

William Baer, whose ninth-grade daughter last week was assigned the book “Nineteen Minutes” for her honors English class, said he and his wife were appalled by the graphic detail in a passage describing a sexual act.

He brought his concern to the school board Monday night and was arrested after he violated the two-minute comment period rule and began arguing with another parent about the school’s use of the book by bestselling author Jodi Picoult of Hanover. Baer was charged with disorderly conduct and was led from the room by a police officer.

School district officials apologized last week and again on Monday for failing to notify parents about the assigned reading, as is the district’s stated policy.

(See editorial, Page A8.)At the end of Monday night’s meeting, the school board instructed the district’s administration to come up with a policy that would help parents know long ahead of time what is being assigned to their children. That way they can approve or disapprove and let the school know.

“We’re working on that policy now,” said Superintendent Kent Hemingway. “We’re doing the research to see how we can give parents more notice than we are doing now.”

Hemingway said he doesn’t want parents to be upset, and he wants to be more open about the process, though school policies detailing steps a parent can take in such cases are already on the district’s website.

“The board asked us to do this, and we want to do this because no one was happy about what occurred Monday night,” he said. “We want everything out in the open, with as much notice as possible.”

The new policy would be brought to school officials for adoption later this year, he said.

Baer was pleased with the decision. “I guess this means I was the problem, and the problem is being fixed,” he said. “All I wanted to do was discuss this.”

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