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‘Paper Towns’ returns to Pasco school’s summer reading list

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— “Paper Towns,” the young adult novel removed from a middle school’s summer reading list after a Pasco County mother complained about its sexual content, is back on the list.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said Tuesday that the district worked with the school, Dr. John Long Middle, and put the book back on the eighth-grade reading list after adding descriptions of all the books “so parents could see what their children are reading.”

Long Middle’s website tells students to choose one novel to read from their grade level’s list. “Paper Towns” by John Green is one of four options for eighth-graders. The others are “Navigating Early” by Clare Vanderpool, “Green Angel” by Alice Hoffman and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.

About a month ago, “Paper Towns” was removed from the list after parent Joanne Corcoran complained to school board member Joanne Hurley about graphic sexual references in the novel. Hurley passed the complaint along to Superintendent Kurt Browning and Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson.

Larson said at the time that Long Middle removed the book from the reading list of its own accord and not by edict from the school district. The book remained on the shelves of libraries at several high schools and middle schools in Pasco.

Hurley said Tuesday evening that she is fine with the decision to put the book back on the list. She said she never asked for the book to be banned, but did want the parent’s complaint addressed.

“I’m comfortable with the fact we looked at it and know a little bit more about this book,” she said.

The book’s temporary removal drew the attention of the National Coalition Against Censorship, which sent an email to Browning and school board members urging them to place the book back on the reading list, calling “Paper Towns” a “highly praised and critically acclaimed novel.”

The New York-based coalition also argued that the removal violated the school board’s own policy that says complaints about books should be in writing and that a review committee should evaluate the book’s literary merit.

When Corcoran’s complaint about the book first came to district officials’ attention, they began work to develop a policy to alert parents when their children are going to be assigned potentially controversial reading material. The coalition also voiced concerns about that, calling the idea “both problematic and misguided.”

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