Prize winning book or pornographic material? Waukesha school district has heated debate over Looking for Alaska

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WAUKESHA (WITI) -- In a unanimous decision, the district's Consideration Committee voted to keep the book Looking for Alaska in middle and high school libraries. That's despite opposition from parents, who question the book's sexual themes.

Ellen Cox has been leading the charge to remove Looking for Alaska from Waukesha's school libraries. She questioned some of the content after her daughter came home from South High School with the book. Ultimately, the district's Consideration Committee decided to keep it on the library shelves.

"It was based on mature adults reading the book and making a decision based on that.  Not on what a child`s mind is reading when they`re reading a book," says Cox.

The book was originally released in 2005, and has seen renewed popularity after author John Green's other novel, A Fault in Our Stars became a box office hit. The book focuses on a female character named Alaska Young. Within the pages, there are lines about sexual encounters and watching pornography.

"Gang rape, sex, drugs. They glamorize drinking," says Karen Tessman, parent. "They are topics that should be read by adults."

Committee members believe those topics overshadow the overall theme of the novel.

"Perhaps this opens doors for parents to have conversations with their kids and be aware of what they are reading," says David LaBorde, chairman of Consideration Committee.

The National Coalition Against Censorship says the New York Times Best-Seller deals with issues of friendships, self-discovery, and loss. Alaska has also received an American Library Association Award, given annually to the best book written for teens.

"You can get caught up in the language or the drinking or sex or you can say student students gain knowledge from all of these experiences because they live in a diverse society," says one attendee.

But this isn't likely the last chapter written -- about keeping boarders around Alaska.

"Absolutely appeal it. I`ve come this far - I`m not going to turn back," says one parent.

Parents have the opportunity to appeal to the full school board. Just to give you an idea of how popular this book is, it's currently checked out of all libraries within the Waukesha County System.


  • karin

    Shakespeare, Hemingway, Twain, The ColorPurple all have come under scrutiny. I think book should be taken on merit with parent having option not to have child read if assigned. If just in library leave it.

  • Cynthia

    If the book contains descriptions which, if put in visual form, would be considered illegal to show a child, then it should ve removed. Otherwise, if parents are complaining, tgen the book should ve kept, but checked out only if tge child has parental permission to do so. We need to stop acting like all books are historical classics and start acknowledging that some of them contwin material that would ve completely inappropriate if presented in another media form.

    • Daniel

      Okay, so if the book is claimed to be horrible. Let’s believe whatever these people who obviously haven’t read it and just do what the Nazis did when they didn’t like what people were reading.

      • Cynthia

        I did not say that Daniel. I just advocated for parents, who have a right to say whether their child can or cannot read certain material. The minute a school has more say than a parent in the raising of a child…then you have socialist (or Nazi as you put it) like behavior. And, for petes sake, I clearly advocated for keeping the book if it did not contain the literary equivalent of pornographic or sexually lewd material. I dont know anyone besidespredators who would argue FOR giving children such items.

  • Dawn

    Unbelievable, how can we as a society ban materials and move forward. My 15 year old just read it. If a child is willing to read something, why limit them? Ignorance is not the pathway to knowledge.

  • Mary Downs

    After my son read ” The Fault In Our Stars”, he came to me and told me what a great book it was and that I should read it. He was right. It was bright, funny and poignant all at the same time. We were at the book store when he spotted “Looking For Alaska”. Since I read the aforementioned book and was also familiar with the author and his video blogs, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I wondered why, after he read it, he said nothing to me. When I asked him how it was he said “it was good” but offered no more than to say “TFIOS was better”. So of course, I was curious. I read it and I must say I was taken aback by some of its subject matter. However, it is an opportunity to talk openly (even if the idea to do so did not come from him. He was 14 at the time.) while the sexual matters are casual, which I do not agree with, the emotional aspects of these teens (both book characters and real-life) are what concern me most, making our discussion even more valuable. This book is still on my son’s bookshelf and will remain there for as long as wants it to be. I do not recommend it be removed from schools or libraries either. Parents…be parents and know what your kids are doing, reading, eating, etc. while still leaving them room to grow.

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