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Man Arrested During Outburst in School Board Meeting About A Controversial Book

For many writers, ironically, having your book “banned” is both a badge of honor and surefire way to increase sales. A Google search of “please ban my books” returns more than a dozen articles with that phrase, all by different writers. So perhaps for Jodi Picoult the news that a parent was arrested in New Hampshire after protesting the assignment of her novel Nineteen Minutes at a school board meeting.

The book, published in 2007, follows its characters through the events leading up to and then following a school shooting. The book contains two scenes of sex between minors, the second being an aggressive, graphic encouter. This detail provides arguably more meaning for the events of the shooting that actual mass-shootings have…such is the luxury of fiction.

As a work of literature, the novel succeeds in subverting readers’ expectations and invoking feelings of empathy for the shooter and animus for some of the victims. So it’s assignment to students—given that it is both well-written and deals with situations applicable to their lives—makes sense. Yet, some parents in the town of Gliford object to the scene, one suggesting the sex scene is “not relevant to the topic of the whole entire book.”

At a school board meeting on Monday, William Baer was given 2 minutes to speak and wasted most of it by asking the school board to read a document they had written. He was visibly annoyed and later, during a comment from a parent speaking against censorship, Baer continued to interrupt the meeting and was arrested by a police officer.

Interestingly, it seems as if Baer’s “grand gesture” was relatively useless. The only other parent on the video also spoke against the book. At the end of the video below, the police officer seems to say that he agrees with Baer as well.

What is interesting about this is that these parents, through their objection to a literary novel, are throwing up blinders to deny the sort of world in which their children live. The scenes are discomfiting on purpose and, as one parent told WCVB, are meant to “start a conversation” that can only begin with their children.

That these parents are wringing their hands about a graphic sex scene in the context of a larger story is almost laughable, considering that their teenagers are always one Google search away from finding literally any taboo thing they are curious about.

Also, as is typical with these culture battles, the parents are so caught up in the sex of it all, that no one seems to even care how disturbing the graphic depictions of the school shooting might be to children. While trying to ban the book for violence would be just as silly, that it isn’t an issue says something far more disturbing about parents in Gilfrod, N.H. and (perhaps) across the U.S.

photo via screengrab

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.