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School Board Votes To Allow Students To Read Book About Abortion, Rape

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File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

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BOONE, N.C. (CBS Charlotte/AP) — Watauga County school officials say teachers can still have their students read the book “The House of Spirits.”

The county board of education voted 3-2 Thursday night to allow continued use of the book.

A parent complained about the book in October. Chastity Lesesne is upset that the book includes scenes of abortion, rape and torture.

“It’s unfortunate it got to this point,” Lesesne said after the board vote.

The board opponents of using the book in class tried to get it removed from the curriculum but keep it in the school library. That effort failed.

“Parents need and deserve an opt-out if they don’t want their children to read this particular book,” said board member Brenda Reese, who said she has read the book twice since October. “But I don’t feel like we should pull this book from the class.”

Board member Ron Henries told the Winston-Salem Journal that he doesn’t understand why parents would let their kids read this book.

“Even in the height of this controversy, a great multitude of parents have decided to let their children read this book,” Henries told the Journal. “I don’t know why. But a staggering number of people want their kids to read this book. I’m going to have to stick with parent choice.”

The North Carolina ACLU backed the decision to keep the book in schools.

“We applaud the Watauga County Board of Education for doing the right thing and supporting the freedom to read,” Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation, told WCNC-TV. “Sophomore honors English students in Watauga schools will now be able to once again read ‘The House of the Spirits’ with the benefit of faculty led classroom discussions, and parents who object to assigned texts still have the option to choose an alternative reading option.”

Sophomore honors English teacher Mary Kent Whitaker said in the four semesters she has used the book in class, more than 90 percent of parents approved their children reading it. Others were given an alternative.

Boone police are investigating 11 threatening letters sent to teachers about the book.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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