JAY — “Gutless,” by Carl Deuker, was pulled from Jay High School’s Celebrate Literacy Week reading list after some parents questioned its content, according to Santa Rosa County Director of High Schools Jason Weeks.
“Gutless” tells the story of a Seattle high school student, Brock Ripley, balancing his football aspirations with a friend the team’s quarterback doesn’t like. The book features themes of bullying, overcoming failures, family illness and growing up. Weeks said parents objected to pieces throughout the book they felt were inappropriate.
“The longest set together is about three pages of things that are not appropriate,” Weeks said. “It’s more about body parts and things like that that shouldn’t be being discussed. It’s inappropriate in that nature.”
The following is a passage from the book describing a girl, Suzanne Friend, who was in special education classes: “Then, in middle school, she got breasts. She got them before any of the other girls. Beautiful breasts. Movie star breasts."
The passage continues to describe the movement of her breasts and how boys reacted to them.
"Other girls didn't like being stared at, but Suzanne did," the passage said. "Probably it was the first time anyone paid attention to her, the first time she had anything on the other girls."
"She shook them for lots of guys," the narrator continued. "Every time she did it for me, I felt guilty. I never once asked her to do it, and she seemed to like it, but watching her didn't feel right.”
Weeks said he, Jay High Principal Stephen Knowlton, and Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick agreed with the parents’ assessment of such content.
“Mr. Knowlton met with everyone that wanted to meet with him and listened to their concerns and took the appropriate action,” Weeks said.
District staffers are reviewing how educators missed material parents would find objectionable.
“That process had a gap in it and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Weeks said. “Neither Mr. Knowlton nor the district supports the inappropriate pieces of that book. There was no disagreement about that … We care about the community values and we want to make sure our folks understand it.”
What does the book’s author have to say about the issue?
"I'm naturally sorry that ‘Gutless’ was pulled,” Deuker said. “In context, ‘Gutless’ is moral to the core — maybe to the point of being too preachy. The characters that abuse power are, by the last page, revealed as moral cowards — despicable people. The main character learns through the course of the novel that developing the moral courage to stand up to evil is essential, far more important than physical courage on an athletic field. The teachers would have used the book to take on the topics of bullying and abuse of power.
“A part of me does, I'll admit, sympathize with parents. They want to keep their children young and innocent — fourth-graders for life. But Peter Pan and Wendy aren't real. Their junior high ‘children’ are no longer children, but are now young adults. Reading ‘Gutless’ would have been good for them."
Celebrate Literacy Week, which was Jan. 23-27, is an annual statewide reading event promoted by the Florida Department of Education. This year's theme was "Literacy Changes the World."
"Gutless," which was published Sept. 6, 2016, has a 4.3-star customer rating (out of 5 stars) on Amazon.com.