KCSD board won’t ban Picoult book from Kennett High

District also welcomes new math/science supervisor, approves 3-year district level plan 

By Kim Chiomento, Staff Writer, The Times


A large but civil crowd attended Monday night’s Kennett Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting to offer input as to whether the board should ban Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes from the Kennett High School library. Board voted 7-1 to keep the book.

NEW GARDEN – Whether to embrace intellectual freedom or ban books from young readers sparked a larger than normal crowd for Monday night’s Kennett Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting at New Garden Elementary School.

While the meeting was filled with a lot of important topics — including the introduction and approval of the three-year District Level Plan and the approval and hiring of a new District-wide Supervisor of Mathematics/Science — it was the lively, respectful discussion regarding the merits of intellectual freedom versus the question of what constitutes appropriate content as they relate to Jodi Picault’s powerful and graphic book, Nineteen Minutes, in the Kennett High School (KHS) library that filled the seats.

Much time was given to an in-depth discussion of best-selling author Jodi Picoult’s book Ninteteen Minutes.  The book graphically details events leading up to a devastating school shooting, contains graphic details of a date rape, along with strong profanity.  The initial opposition to the book’s content was raised by concerned KCSD parent, Angela John, who believes that the content is not suitable for high school students and appealed to the School Board for its removal.


Kennett High School students turned out Monday night to express their support for the book Nineteen Minutes remaining in the school’s library, (Left to right) Vikki Eppes & Alli Buley

According to the agenda (Special Items – section F), the Administration first attempted to resolve the issue informally, meeting with John in accordance with Policy 109 (“Phase I” of the Policy.) John was not satisfied and submitted the formal Request for Reconsideration of Resource Material form, which was forwarded to the chairperson of the Resource Material Review Committee.

Several stakeholders spoke on behalf of the merits keeping the book available to high school students including former KHS teacher and long-time Kennett community member and child-advocate, Jean O’ Neil, Kennett Middle School Library Media Specialist, Virginia McGarvey, and KHS students Alli Buley (17) and Vikki Eppes (16).  The four speakers discussed the importance of intellectual freedom, their belief that removing access to books makes students more even more vulnerable, the importance of broadening perspectives through critical thinking and self awareness, and the important discourse involved around uncomfortable and difficult topics. Each speaker noted that the book touches on reality for today’s high school students and many meeting attendees adorned purple buttons that read “I read banned books” in support of keeping the controversial book available.

The majority of KCSD school board members were in favor of the book staying in the KHS library collection;  supporting the position that ultimately parents need to discuss and decide what material is most suitable for their family, and that there are always alternative materials available. All were very appreciative of the respectful and thoughtful research and discussion that went into the detailed review process. Board members also reiterated their appreciation of “Democracy and diverse opinions and perspectives being alive and well within our District.”

Board Member Doug Stirling, acknowledged the importance of the complex and difficult issues presented in the book; but expressed his belief and concerns that at times “The book crossed ‘the line’ and that the author probably could have told the same story without all the gratuitous language and extremely graphic sexual details.” Stirling was not in support of keeping the book available to KHS students.  Ultimately, the School Board voted 7-1 in support of the Resource Material Review Committee’s initial decision to keep Nineteen Minutes in the KHS library’s collection.


Dr. Lydia Hallman, the Kennett Consolidated School District’s newly hired, district-wide Supervisor of Mathematics and Science addresses KCSD Board of Education, Monday night. She starts her post in January, 2015.

With that decided, Superintendent Barry Tomasetti provided an overview of the state required District Level Plan; a three-year plan for implementing district improvements between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2018.  The Plan will cover a variety of policies including teacher induction, staff development, special and gifted education, with an additional focus on creating safe and supportive school environments for all KCSD students.  The plan has been posted on the KCSD website and has met the required 28-day public review period.  The Board voted unanimously to approve the plan; it will now be submitted to the PA Department of Education to comply with State School Code.

Tomasetti also presented the credentials and case for hiring Dr. Lydia Hallman as the new District Supervisor for Mathematics & Science.  The District conducted an extensive, year-long search to fill this important, vacant position. Dr. Hallman received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Drexel University, her Master’s and Doctorate in Education from Saint Joseph’s University and has served as a chemistry and physics teacher and interim high school principal within the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District. The board unanimously approved hiring Dr. Hallman, with a start date of January 12, 2015.

“I am excited to be here in Kennett and apply my diverse industry and education background to help the District meet the needs of every student,” Hallman said.

Mark Tracy, Assistant to the Superintendant, Business Affairs, said he was pleased to report that the District’s comprehensive audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, “passed with flying colors,” achieving what is commonly called a Clean Opinion from independent auditors Barbacane Thornton and Company.  A copy of the full audit report will be made available on the KCSD website.

Of note, KCSD receive a check for $853 from PECO energy as part of its energy efficiency incentive program for the new high-efficiency LED lighting installed this summer at Greenwood Elementary School.  The new, brighter lighting is also projected to save the district approximately $600 annually.

Important future KCSD meeting dates include:  Curriculum Committee Meeting – Monday, November 24th and the next School Board Meeting is Monday, December 1st.  Both meetings will start at 7:00 PM and will be held at the KCSD District Office.  For detailed copies of meeting minutes and other KCSD School Board related information, please visit www.kcsd.org.

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