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‘In Cold Blood’ gets OK from Glendale school board

October 6, 2011 |  8:32 am

Glendale school board says students can read 'In Cold Blood.'

A literary brouhaha over Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" came to a close this week as Glendale Unified school board members voted to approve the book for advanced placement students.

The 4-0 decision capped a months-long debate during which district administrators, teachers, students and parents wrangled over whether the nonfiction book was appropriate for teenage readers. School board member Mary Boger, who had spoken out against including the book on the list of approved reading material, abstained from the vote, the Glendale News Press reported.

"I think the board did a service to the community by talking about the importance of literature in the public school curriculum," said longtime Glendale High School English teacher Holly Ciotti. "Not only am I looking forward to assigning the book to my AP students, they are chomping at the bit to read it."

"In Cold Blood" became a point of contention last spring after Ciotti requested to add it to a list of books approved for AP language, a course that enrolls top 11th-grade English students and focuses on rhetoric and debate.

The work — first published in 1965 and widely read by high school and college students throughout the country — received unanimous approval from the district's English Curriculum Study Committee. But it raised red flags with the Secondary Education and PTA councils.

Some school board members, charged with the final decision, also expressed strong reservations, including whether the contents of the book, which details the brutal murder of a Kansas farmer and his family, are too violent for a young audience.

Boger said she chose to abstain because she could neither recommend the book nor deny anyone the opportunity to read it.

"Yes, I know our AP kids are smart," Boger said. "But as the mother of several AP students, I can unequivocally state that 'smart' does not mean 'mature.' And, yes, I know the book may appear on the AP exam, however, I have yet to hear of one of our students failing an AP exam because they had not read the book."

Other board members acknowledged the weighty nature of "In Cold Blood," but ultimately supported it.

"It humanized everybody that was involved in the whole story," Board Vice President Christine Walters said. "The reader knows a lot about those that were victims, the reader knows a lot about those who committed the crimes. The reader knows a lot about what the reaction was in the community, the fear that was created."


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-- Megan O'Neil, Times Community News

Photo: Glendale High School juniors Miranda Madrid, left, and Brianna Matara, right, discuss Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" in teacher Holly Ciotti's advanced placement language class last month. Credit: Raul Roa / Times Community News