Shelton BOE member concerned about book on freshman reading list

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Anthony Simonetti, seeking re-election to the Board of Aldermen's First Ward, with Republican Board of Education hopeful Amy Romano at Elizabeth Shelton School on Election Day, Nov. 5.

Anthony Simonetti, seeking re-election to the Board of Aldermen's First Ward, with Republican Board of Education hopeful Amy Romano at Elizabeth Shelton School on Election Day, Nov. 5.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Amy Romano is calling on her fellow Board of Education members to review “The Glass Castle: A Memoir” — a book she calls inappropriate for students in ninth grade.

Romano spoke during the board meeting’s public portion Wednesday, reading excerpts from Jeannette Walls’ novel that contained descriptions of sexual situations, alcoholism and abuse, both physical and mental. The book is required reading for freshmen at the high school.

“This is just a taste of the book,” Romano, a mother of two children in Shelton schools. “I ask that the board review this book and see what educational purpose it has in the curriculum and if it needs to be removed.”

Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle said the school is reviewing Romano’s concern and plans to discuss the issue with the district’s Office of Teaching and Learning.

Board Chair Kathy Yolish said the issue will be referred to the board’s Teaching and Learning Committee’s Jan. 11 meeting. Yolish said she asked Riddle, the English teacher and the curriculum leader to be available to offer “reliable input about the text.

“As I take every issue and complaint seriously, I will be sure to treat our board member’s complaint with the same respect that I would give to every teacher, student and parent,” Yolish added.

Romano read several sections, most of which contained depictions of sexual abuse, molestation, prostitution and abuse. She said she was pleased when her five minutes in public portion was over, since she was about to read sections that contained “extreme racism.

“These parts are so vulgar I would have had to bleep out every other word because I’m not comfortable saying them,” she added.

Romano told the board that the book — which has been the subject of controversy and even banned in other school districts in the country — is required reading in ninth grade at Shelton High.

Yolish said, from her understanding, this book has been part of the curriculum in this grade level for several years.

Yolish said Romano mentioned her concerns about the book to her in August. Romano, chair of the Teaching and Learning Committee the past two years, did not add the topic on either the September or October agendas, Yolish said.

“I did investigate this matter today and further learned that Mrs. Romano did speak with the Language Arts teacher about her concerns but did not pursue the matter with the English curriculum leader, SHS administration or our director of curriculum, instruction and data, Kristin Santilli,” Yolish said.

Romano said she had never mentioned Walls’ novel to Yolish in August. Romano said she had a discussion about another book, “Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson, with Yolish in August.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com