NA parents protest controversial novel

A group of NA parents will appear at the upcoming school board meeting to protest a novel in the 9th grade English curriculum.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Angie Thomas’s novel “The Hate U Give” has become the latest link in the chain of books challenged in schools.

Sally Cho, Staff Writer

A controversial book in North Allegheny’s ninth-grade English curriculum has been met with strong opposition. The Hate U Give tells the story of a Black teenager who witnesses the police shooting of her childhood friend, raising conversations about police brutality and racial discrimination.

It would be an understatement to say this is not the first time the book has been called into question in schools. In fact, it was named one of the Top 10 Most Challenged books through 2017 and 2018 by the American Library Association, due to “profanity, drug use, and sexual references.”

On March 5th, North Hills News reported on Facebook that some North Allegheny parents were upset over the teaching of The Hate U Give in ninth grade English classrooms and were planning to address the School Board about their concerns. They cited explicit language and drug use as the causes of their worry, which some students found unreasonable.

It is naive to think that students have not been exposed to [profanity and drug use] already.”

— Mackenzie Volpe, freshman

“It is naive to think that students have not been exposed to [profanity and drug use] already,” freshman Mackenzie Volpe said. “Whether it is through social media or real life, every person I know has seen or experienced cursing or drug and alcohol use in some way.”

For junior Gloria Wang, the group’s intentions seemed hypocritical. 

“We have read so many books over the years where explicit language and drug use has been used, and no one ever had anything to say about it,” Wang said. 

The Facebook post caused a heated debate in the comments section, and the topic quickly became a hot issue around North Allegheny over the weekend, even reaching the author of the novel, Angie Thomas. 

“I wish people were more upset about police brutality than they are about curse words,” Thomas tweeted.

However, some students feel this issue goes beyond inappropriate language and drug references. 

“I know that the complaints were officially about drug use and language, but I think that it is underlying discomfort with the ideas of police brutality and racism discussed in the book,” junior Sam Podnar said.

Junior Zoë Tracey echoed these sentiments.

The resistance is so clearly a reflection of the inability of our community to acknowledge the unsettling situations Black Americans go through,” she said. “Their kids are going to be exposed to Black issues, and some parents haven’t yet [faced] or aren’t ready to face that.”

The supporters of the book feel that The Hate U Give must remain in the curriculum, as it leads to important conversations in classrooms that must be had. 

The first reflex for white parents with white kids might be to shield their kids from any mention of racism,” Podnar said. “But if we want to change anything for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] Americans, we should let education push kids out of their comfort zones.”

But the issue is hardly one-sided.  Some students agree with the group of parents and feel that teaching the book in class would do more harm than good.

I take issue with forcing a book into the curriculum that reinforces the stigma around cops…”

— Ben Welsh, junior

“I take issue with forcing a book into the curriculum that reinforces the stigma around cops, especially since we have school resource officers in our high schools,” junior Ben Welsh said. “The last thing we want as a district is for kids to feel unsafe coming to school based upon generalizations that came from a book in English class.”

The controversy even reached WPXI and was aired on television the same night the initial post was made. The segment featured an interview with NASH junior Quinn Volpe and a statement by the North Allegheny administration on the situation. 

“North Allegheny School District provides students with diverse and engaging reading experiences as part of our curriculum,” the statement read. “Families were given the opportunity to opt out of the novel and read another book in its place. No families opted out of reading the novel.”

The concerned parent group was initially planning to speak at the Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 17th. Although it is unforeseeable what decisions may come out of the meeting, it is clear that the topic of censorship in schools is a complex issue that has and continues to be a divisive matter.