The powerful novel, Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes has received dozens of awards since it was released in 2018 based off the stats on its official website. However, a handful of Florida students may never get to see what all the hype is all about after two fifth grade classrooms had the book removed from the curriculum following a complaint by the Fraternal Order of Police in Broward County.
NBC News put light on the issue in the original report, which details how the School Board of Broward County stated “procedures were not proactively followed prior to the assignment of the novel.” Ghost Boys tells the story of a 12-year-old Black boy named Jerome, who is sadly shot by a police officer that mistook his toy gun for the real thing. In ghost form, Jerome starts to see, in quote, “devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust brutal killing.” Members of the Fraternal Order of Police district lodge weren’t too happy to see the book being taught to Floridian students, with one outspoken member by the name of Paul Kempinski calling it, “propaganda that police officers are liars, racists, murderers.” An excerpt from letter, which sparked the whole backlash, reads, “I have taken the time to read this book and am in disbelief that this would be a 5th-grade reading assignment, or that this book would be at all approved by the Broward County Public Schools.”
As NBC News reports, about 40 percent of Broward’s students are Black based on district statistics. With that said, wouldn’t it make sense to have them reading stories about important issues happening in their communities? Oh, and yes — that unfortunately does include police brutality when it comes to Black and brown bodies.
“Our police officers in South Florida work hard to try and build bridges in the community. Books like these damage those relationships without creating real solutions,” said Kempinski as reasoning behind his decision to boycott the book. Thankfully, statements like that received pushback from the National Coalition Against Censorship, a New York-based nonprofit aimed at advocating for free expression. Spokeswoman Nora Pelizzari is quoted as stating, “even if the book is considered controversial, stories affecting students of color are hard to find in some school systems.” Speak on it!
Let us know your thoughts on this subject, especially if you got a chance to read and/or teach Jewell Parker Rhodes’ clearly influential Ghost Boys book.
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