A parent who complained about a book assigned to his daughter at Gilford High School in Gilford, New Hampshire, was arrested and taken away in handcuffs from a school board meeting for refusing to “be quiet” when repeatedly admonished by a board member.
William Baer, whose ninth-grade daughter last week was assigned the book “Nineteen Minutes,” came to the meeting to protest the book’s assignment and the district’s failure to notify parents the book contained graphic descriptions of “rough sex” between teens.
According to the Laconia Daily Sun, Baer challenged the board to read aloud the controversial portion of “Nineteen Minutes” during the meeting, but school officials refused.
Before speaking, Baer was told he had two minutes to speak.
Baer spoke beyond the time limit and sat down but then exchanged words with another parent who approved of the book.
“So what is the remedy here?” Baer asked.
The board said it would not take questions on the matter.
“Sir, would you please be respectful of the other people?” a school board member responded.
“Like you’re respectful of my daughter, right? And my children?” he countered.
“Please, be quiet,” admonished the board member.
A police officer then arrived at the scene, instructing Baer to leave with him.
“You are going to arrest me because I violated the two-minute rule?” the father said. “I guess you are going to have to arrest me.”
But Baer did get support from other parents.
Sarah Carrignan said, according to the Sun, that she was “‘utterly appalled that this was acceptable.”
“My son should never have had the book in his hand.”
Part of the problem was that when the book was used previously in the school, parents were notified and asked for permission for their children to participate.
The school this year didn’t notify parents until after students already were assigned the book and given access to the material.
Gilford Police Lt. James Leach, who was at the meeting, ordered Baer to leave the meeting and then handcuffed the parent. Reports say Baer was ticketed for disorderly conduct.
The report said Baer had challenged Principal Kent Hemingway to read aloud the controversial section. But board chairman Sue Allen said no one from the board or administration would do that.
“Nineteen Minutes,” published in 2007 by best-selling author Jodi Picoult, was described by a reviewer on Good Reads as not having “the artistic writing that Picoult’s earlier novels did.”
“In ‘Nineteen Minutes,’ Picoult told a story – a good one. But the nuance and magic of her earlier writing is gone,” the review said. It’s about, “Peter Houghton, picked on by school mates from the first day of kindergarten, enters Sterling High, and in nineteen minutes kills ten and wounds another nineteen students.”
The reviewer recommended it “for someone desperate for anything to read.”
Hemingway and Allen defended the book as a “thematically important” exploration into the background and motivations of a fictional school shooting, despite a graphic description of teenage rough sex on page 313 that suggests the type of violence commonly associated with “date rape.”
The Leader reported Allen later issued a statement concerning the assignment: “The board apologizes for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the school district to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel.”
The statement said the “school district policies IGE, IJ, IJA, KEC (available on the school district website) refer to the procedures for the use of novels controversial material.”
“The district will take immediate action to revise these policies to include notification that requires parents to accept controversial material rather than opt out. Furthermore, the notification will detail more specifically the controversial material. These policies will be revised prior to the 2014-15 school year.”
Baer said there were two standards being applied, one for teachers requiring students to read such material and a separate standard for the public.
“If I stood outside the school and started handing out copies of page 313 of that book, I am confident I could be arrested for the distribution of pornographic material to minors,” Baer said. “I don’t understand why it’s OK for the high school to require our 9th grade children have to read such material, but I get arrested because I want to object to it. Something here is very wrong.”
Gilford police released a statement that Baer was arrested for continuing to speak after Allen told him to stop.
“Baer refused to stop and told Leach to arrest him,” the police statement continued. “Baer was removed from the meeting and arrested.”
Baer was held for a couple hours before being released on $700 personal recognizance bail.
Police said Baer has a court date set for June 17 at 8:15 a.m.
Baer told WND he first found out about the novel when a friend scanned the book and came across page 313.
“My friend was flabbergasted with what he was reading,” Baer recalled. “Then my wife came into the room and she was shocked our daughter was being assigned in an English class to read a novel with this kind of graphic sex described.”
He contacted other parents and then was contacted by the principal, with an invitation to meet to discuss concerns.
“We met at 1 p.m. yesterday. I told him that my daughter had the book in her hands for a week and I never got a notice from the school asking my permission for her to read it. He said it was an oversight because the book has been on the school’s class reading list since it came out in 2007. I explained that I felt I should have gotten a notice where I could have opted-out from my daughter having to read the book.”
Baer said the book “goes on-on-on after the sex scene, talking about the girl getting pregnant and wanting to have an abortion.
“So, I went to the school board meeting to complain that the school never gave me a chance to say I didn’t want my 14-year-old daughter reading a book like this that I consider to be pornographic.”