Students at Carroll High School are fighting their own superintendent's decision to ban a novel written by an Iowa native from their literature class.
"What's Eating Gilbert Grape" was pulled from the high school's literature-to-film class by Superintendent Rob Cordes over concerns about a sexual scene. Cordes acknowledged that he didn't read the full book before making a ruling. The 1991 book, by Peter Hedges, deals with a young man's experiences with his troubled family in a small Iowa town.
It is still available at the school's library and many students have bought copies for themselves. Many could be seen in recent days carrying copies of the book at school. Students started an Internet protest on the social network Facebook.
Nearly 250 people have joined the group - "Un-ban Gilbert Grape!" They plan to call for a formal school district review of Cordes' decision.
"Parents were already notified of its content, and had to sign a permission slip for their child to read it. The idea that a very small minority of students can dictate the curriculum of the entire school is ludicrous," the statement says. "In a school district with ever decreasing reading test scores, and an increased emphasis on reading such as mandatory free reading in homeroom, why is the district shooting themselves in the foot by taking away some of the few books which make the average student actually enjoy and want to read?"
Students from Carroll High School, Kuemper, Glidden-Ralston, Audubon, other schools and alumni now in colleges around the country have become "members" of the Web group. Students from high schools in other states have joined.
Several students have been wearing T-shirts emblazoned with free-speech quotations in recent days, said senior Kellie Proctor, 18, who created the messages: "Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word;" "Think for yourself and let others do the same" and "books won't stay banned and ideas won't go to jail."
At a school board meeting Monday night one parent, DeAnn Pudenz, compared "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" to Penthouse magazine, and held copies of both up before the board to make her point.
CHS junior Ian Muller, 16, said he read the book in two days after the controversy happened. "I think I have lost a little respect for Mr. Cordes after the stunt he pulled," he said.