Tempers flare at school board meeting in fight about 'Persepolis'

A school board meeting in Murphy, Oregon, turned heated Tuesday when a board member went head to head with parents about Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir Persepolis.

According to the Medford Mail Tribune, the parents object to the availability of the graphic novel in the Three Rivers School District's high school libraries. Some contend teenagers shouldn't have access to the book without parental approval.

Depicting Satrapi’s experience as a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award. The graphic novel was at the center of a controversy in March 2013, when Chicago Public Schools ordered its removal, sparking protests from parents, teachers and student. That order was quickly rescinded, but CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett asked that Persepolis no longer be taught to seventh-graders, as it may not be appropriate for that age group.

Although the parents came to Tuesday's meeting with Persepolis on their minds, their anger became focused on school board member Kate Dwyer after she interrupted one man several times. The Mail Tribune reports audience members quickly added their names to the speaker list so they could take Dwyer to task.

A librarian at Josephine Community Libraries, Dwyer objected to the man's attempts to read excerpts from Persepolis that he found objectionable, insisting he should tell what the book is actually about. Board Chairman Danny York asked that the man, Joseph Rice, be allowed to continue -- only to stop him because of the nature of some of the book's language.

His point seemingly made, Rice asked why Persepolis is in school libraries if the language it contains isn't permitted at district headquarters. Dwyer, who was accused by one audience member of "undermining a parent's authority," compared some of content in Satrapi's memoir to violent passages from the Bible, explaining she wouldn't permit that book to be removed from libraries.

In the end, another board member recommended the parents follow district procedure for requesting the review of a book, which begins with superintendent and director of curriculum.

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