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Principals union criticizes sexual content of recommended book

The city principals union is raising red flags about a novel that’s part of a curriculum recommended by the city Department of Education, charging that the novel includes material inappropriate for middle-school students.

Members of the Council for School Supervisors and Administrators who reviewed “Make Lemonade” were alarmed by its sexually explicit language and content, union officials said today. The award-winning young adult novel, which is about two teenagers who face steep challenges on their paths to career and college, is included in the eighth-grade Scholastic CODEX curriculum that some city schools adopted this year as part of their transition to the Common Core standards.

A CSA spokeswoman sent an email to reporters today citing several passages that she said had worried union members, including discussions of sex and drugs and the phrase, “Baby I want to do you good.” That phrase appears in a passage where one character recounts what a man had said to her — and that she declined his advance because she is trying to improve her life.

“I don’t question the literary value of this book,” said CSA President Ernest Logan. “But as the former principal of a middle school, I find its content inappropriate for eighth graders and I know it would create a problem in their diverse communities.”

“Nobody is questioning the literary merit of the book, just its age-appropriateness,” said the spokeswoman, Antoinette Isable-Jones. She said some schools are trying to figure out how to return the book and get others to assign instead.

Isable-Jones also said the principals union wanted to know more about how the city vetted materials that it recommended earlier this year. The city recommended multiple programs for schools transitioning to the Common Core and simplified the ordering process for those programs, although the rollout has not been without bumps.

Department of Education officials said the novel’s merit is well established: It’s part of a series by Virginia Euwer Wolff that was named the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults. They also said no schools are required to ask students to read “Make Lemonade,” even if they are using the CODEX curriculum, and that parents are welcome to share their concerns with their schools if their children are assigned the book.

“The novel has been highly recommended for middle school grades and is just one of many novels that teachers can choose among for reading material,” said department spokeswoman Erin Hughes. “All schools choose their own Common Core-aligned curricula and are free to select among different books.”

“Make Lemonade” is not the first time elements of new Common Core-aligned curriculums have raised eyebrows—though school districts regularly face controversy about their choices of literature, Common Core-aligned or not.

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