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New Hampshire dad is arrested for complaining about book at school board meeting

May 10, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Have you heard the story about the New Hampshire father who was arrested last week at a school board meeting for complaining about the school curriculum?

William Baer was upset after he learned that "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult was assigned to his daughter's ninth grade English class and that parents weren't given a warning about the content. The book contains sexually explicit material. According to The New York Daily News, among other news outlets, Baer was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after he spoke longer than the two minutes allotted at the meeting and got into an argument with a school official at the meeting. When a police officer told him to leave, Baer apparently told the officer to arrest him. The story can be found at The charges are not being dropped. The school is claiming that no one has complained before about the book, which is about bullying and a school shooting as well as including explicit passages depicting two teens having rough sex.

I haven't read this particular book but it doesn't look or sound a whole lot worse than some of the fiction I was reading for fun when I was a few years younger than these high school freshmen. The "Flowers in the Attic" series by V.C. Andrews (and certain Harlequin romance novels) were quite popular and probably quite inappropriate for teenagers when I was the age of this girl, but no one put a stop to us reading the books or tried to remove them from the school library.

I don't generally approve of parents who try to control their kids' reading material, much less the books the whole class is reading. Baer's daughter has probably seen and heard worse unless he's been keeping her wrapped in cotton wool and has forbidden her to see any television or movies. On the other hand, I do have to acknowledge that the books I read for my high school English classes were not that sexually explicit and, if they had been, the other parents would have had reason to complain. I remember reading from a long list of classics, like "The Hobbit," "Great Expectations," "Huckleberry Finn," "Wuthering Heights," "Grapes of Wrath," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Macbeth," "Taming of the Shrew" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."

While it sounds like Baer spoke out of turn at the school board meeting, it also sounds like the school has been dismissive of his concerns. School officials go too far when they dismiss parental objections out of hand.

What do you think of the whole controversy? Should Baer have been arrested?


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