Milford Exempted Village Schools will not remove “In the Time of the Butterflies” from its 10th grade English curriculum, officials announced Thursday morning.
The district reviewed the novel after receiving three citizen complaints that deemed its contents sexually inappropriate and a threat to Christian values. They are the only requests to come through the central office in at least five years, director of secondary curriculum and instruction Paul Daniels said.
Located in the northeast suburbs of Cincinnati, Milford Schools serves approximately 6,600 students in Clermont County. Its high school is ranked in the top 60 Ohio schools, according to US News & World Report magazine.
Parents who submitted complaints said the book’s theme is “sex and wickedness” and that it exposes children to “an unhealthy view of sexuality, pornography” and impedes Christian beliefs.
“Assigning this book is willingly and knowingly pandering obscenity to minors,” one parent wrote.
Controversy was sparked on social media after Milford community members posted to Facebook about the book, leading to hundreds of comments on both sides.
“WARNING THIS CONTENT IS EXPLICIT! our 10th graders are being forced to read this pornography in 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 curricula. After a discussion, five committee members voted to continue to include the book in the curriculum and one voted to restrict it to “more mature students.” No one voted to remove the book from Milford curriculum.
Ultimately Superintendent John Spieser decided to keep “In the Time of the Butterflies” as part of the English curriculum for 10th-grade students, the letter reads.
“The novel is an important component within the approved curriculum, is reflective of the Milford Vision and our Portrait of an Eagle, and parents continue to have the ability to choose alternate texts for their child to read if they determine it is in their best interest.” to do so,” Spieser wrote to district families.
Spieser reiterated that parents and guardians always have the right to choose an alternative text to any learning material if they believe a required reading is not in the best interest of their child. Alternative reading for this section of the curriculum include “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” by Mark Haddon; “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles; and “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
More about the novel ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’
The novel, by Julia Alvarez, was published in 1994. It is set in 1960s Dominican Republic and follows three sisters’ involvement in the resistance against Gen. Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It is an American Library Association Notable Book 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, though it is not currently listed in Pen America’s latest index of banned books in schools in 2021 and 2022, which includes nearly 1,600 titles.
The book was removed from a New York state high school’s curriculum in the fall of 2000. The Port Washington board of education disapproved of Alvarez’s novel due to a drawing included in it that shows how to build a bomb, according to the New York Times.
Milford Schools adopted “In the Time of the Butterflies” into its curriculum in the 2014-15 school year, district officials said.
The book and other learning materials “align with the Milford Vision to inspire and prepare our students to reach their fullest potential in a diverse and dynamic world,” Spieser’s message reads.
“We appreciate the active engagement of parents, guardians, students, staff and community members on the important work happening in classrooms,” Spieser wrote. “We are especially grateful for the talented teachers and staff within Milford schools who work each day to help our students become the empathetic lifelong learners we hope to inspire.”