Milford Exempted Village Schools will not remove “In the Time of the Butterflies” from its Grade 10 English curriculum, officials announced Thursday morning.
The district reviewed the novel after receiving three complaints from citizens deeming its content to be sexually inappropriate and a threat to Christian values. Those are the only requests to go through central office for at least five years, said high school program and instruction director Paul Daniels.
Located in the northeast suburb of Cincinnati, Milford Schools serves approximately 6,600 students in Clermont County. Its high school is ranked among the top 60 schools in Ohio, according to US News & World Report magazine.
Parents who filed complaints said the book’s theme was “sex and naughtiness” and that it exposed children to “an unhealthy view of sexuality, pornography” and hindered Christian beliefs.
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“To give away this book is willfully and knowingly offering obscenity to minors,” wrote one parent.
Controversy was sparked on social media after members of the Milford community posted on Facebook about the book, leading to hundreds of comments from both sides.
“WARNING THIS CONTENT IS EXPLICIT! Our Grade 10 students are required to read this pornography at school!” user Amy Boldt posted in a neighborhood Facebook group.
A committee including parents, teachers and administrators read and reviewed the book per board policy and met Wednesday evening to vote on whether or not to ban the book from Milford programs. After discussion, five committee members voted to continue including the book in the curriculum and one voted to restrict it to “more mature students”. No one voted to remove the book from Milford’s program.
Ultimately, Superintendent John Spieser decided to keep “In the Time of the Butterflies” as part of the English curriculum for 10th graders, the letter says.
“The novel is an important part of the approved curriculum, reflects Milford’s vision and our Portrait of an Eagle, and parents continue to have the option of choosing alternate texts to read for their child if they determine it is is in their best interest to do so,” Spieser wrote to families in the district.
Spieser reiterated that parents and guardians always have the right to choose an alternate text for any learning material if they feel that a required reading is not in their child’s best interest. Alternate readings for this section of the program include “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” by Mark Haddon; “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles; and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven”.
Learn more about the novel “In the time of butterflies”
The novel, by Julia Alvarez, was published in 1994. It is set in the 1960s in the Dominican Republic and follows the involvement of three sisters in the resistance against the dictatorship of General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. It is a Notable Book from the American Library Association and was selected for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read program, which offers grants to support community reading programs designed around a single book.
“In the Time of the Butterflies” has been banned in the past, although it is not currently listed in Pen America’s latest index of books banned from schools in 2021 and 2022, which includes nearly 1,600 titles.
The book was removed from the curriculum of a New York State high school in the fall of 2000. The Port Washington School Board disapproved of Alvarez’s novel because of an included drawing that shows how build a bomb, according to the New York Times.
Milford schools adopted “In the Time of the Butterflies” into their curriculum during the 2014-2015 school year, district officials said.
The book and other learning materials “align with Milford’s vision to inspire and prepare our students to reach their full potential in a diverse and dynamic world,” Spieser’s post read.
“We appreciate the active engagement of parents, guardians, students, staff and community members on the important work that is happening in classrooms,” Spieser wrote. “We are especially grateful to the talented teachers and staff at Milford Schools who work every day to help our students become the empathic lifelong learners we hope to inspire.”