Baltimore City Public Schools chief academic officer Sean Conley says M.K. Asante’s acclaimed memoir BUCK has not been banned, despite protests from students, teachers, and social media users.
“It is simply not part of the approved curriculum,” he wrote in statement published in The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday (December 12). “Given the reality of limited time in the school year, extended study of additional texts compromises teachers’ and students’ ability to cover required readings and instructional units.”
He went on to write that although BUCK is not listed as a “core text” in the high school curriculum, “excerpts could be used to supplement the curriculum, and it may be appropriate for independent reading assignments.”
“While the book contains passages that may be controversial for some readers, it is a powerful, inspirational memoir that resonates deeply with many teenagers and adults,” Conley continued. “We are privileged to have a writer of Mr. Asante’s caliber as a member of our community, just as we are privileged to have passionate, committed teachers like Mr. Ober among our faculty.”
A Digital Harbor High School parent condemned the memoir as too graphic for teens on Facebook in November. On December 8, Asante told CASSIUS that he feels the school system is “backpedaling” from its initial statement, which indicated BUCK would be replaced with “a different, approved text” for Digital Harbor High School’s curriculum.
“What they’re doing is they’re trying to dance with language,” Asante said. “But all the teachers who I spoke with at Baltimore City called it a ban. All of the students [I’m in touch with in Baltimore] call it a ban. The city, the community, calls it a ban. The [American Library Association] calls it a ban.”
“I think their logic was simple,” Asante continued. “They didn’t want negative PR, so I found that as I address them and make [what’s happening] more known [to the public] they are reaching out more and being more open.”
On Sunday (December 10), Digital Harbor High School teacher Joshua Ober published an impassioned The Baltimore Sun op-ed titled “Don’t ban BUCK.” In the piece, he stressed the importance of making books like BUCK accessible to students.
“When we shy away from difficult language or conversations, we cripple young people for the future,” he wrote. “Life is full of tough conversations, and what better way to approach them than through award-winning literature?”