Middle School Library Book Challenged


By Gail Schontzler, Chronicle Staff Writer

Unhappy about profanity and violence in a school library book, a Bozeman parent is challenging whether the fictional Nathan’s Run should stay on the shelves at Chief Joseph Middle School.

Bob Gutzman, assistant superintendent for instruction, said Tuesday that the district’s Learning Materials Review Committee would consider the book sometime in January after the holiday break.

Committee members will read the book and meet publicly to hear the parent’s concerns and why librarians chose the book, he said.

Gutzman declined to name the parent who challenged the book or be specific about which language, profanity and violence prompted the parent’s complaint. He said he wanted to ensure that the committee’s hearing process would be fair.

The committee could decide to keep the book, remove it, place it in the high school or restrict it in some way. If anyone is dissatisfied with the committee’s decision, it may be appealed to the School Board.

Margene Scheerer, school librarian, said the book was a top 10 pick for young adults in the year it was published.

Nathan’s Run, by John Gilstrap, tells the story of a 12-year-old orphaned boy accused of murdering a reform school guard. The boy becomes the target of a nationwide manhunt and of a vicious hit man, but wins the trust of a radio talk show host and pleads his case to the public, according to an Amazon.com synopsis.

Kirkus Review likened the book to a cross between Oliver Twist and The Fugitive. Young Amazon readers wrote that they had trouble putting it down and described it as one of the best books they’d read.

From the first chapters, when hard-boiled detectives begin investigating the murder, the book is liberally sprinkled with profanity, such as “‘Oh, sh–‘” and “f—ing vacation.” The crime scene is described as gruesome, with blood splattered everywhere and a knife still sticking out of the victim.

Chief Joseph Middle School teaches students ages 11 to 14 in grades six, seven and eight.

Bozeman schools haven’t had a book challenged since the spring of 2000, when a high school student sought removal of a novel required in English classes, Fools Crow, because of its explicit violence and sexual passages. The Bozeman School Board voted unanimously to keep the book in the English curriculum, citing its value as literature and insight into the history and culture of Montana Indians.

At Monday’s School Board meeting, Gutzman mentioned that a book had been challenged and asked trustees to nominate community members to fill one vacancy on the Learning Materials Review Committee.

The board voted unanimously to approve the rest of the committee, including Bozeman High Associate Principal Bill Franks, teachers Bill Ancell, Candy Tschache and Nina DiMauro, librarians Pat Campbell, Priscilla Dolan and Barb Oriet, and community members Carol Staben Burroughs, Joy Staker and Steve Torstveit.

Gail Schontzler is at .