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North Attleboro superintendent reverses decision to pull Black poetry book from school library

Town Council member speaks up after book banned in North Attleboro school
Town Council member speaks up after book banned in North Attleboro school 01:50

NORTH ATTLEBORO - North Attleboro Council member Darius Gregory made his voice heard during Monday's town council meeting. Emotions ran high over a decision to remove the book "Woke, A Young Poet's Call To Justice" from the Martin Elementary School's library.

"I'm sitting here as the only Black face in this room, and I'm embarrassed. I don't feel supported. I know students in our schools don't feel supported," Gregory said during the recorded meeting. 

School officials said it was a parent at the school who asked for the book to be removed from the library shelves last spring. The decision did not sit well with town council members.

North Attleboro Town Council member, Darius Gregory. CBS Boston

During the meeting, Gregory abruptly walked out in protest of the book's banning. The book itself is a collection of poems by women of color that tackle issues like discrimination and diversity. 

"Woke A Young Poet's Call to Action"

"Maybe it was the essence of the book. If we go read the book, it's short poems; it's about speaking up and speaking out," he said. On Tuesday, Gregory met with the North Attleboro superintendent privately, and by late Tuesday afternoon, North Attleboro Superintendent John Antonucci released a statement saying: "Upon reflection, and in light of the dialogue that remains ongoing within our community, I have determined that the right course of action is to restore the book's place in our library." 

Antonucci also said that the book hadn't technically been banned. "Based upon the committee's work and my evaluation of the age-appropriateness of the book in a K-5 environment, and on the publisher's note that the book was geared toward those age 8-12 (our students are as young as five in the Martin Elementary School), I decided that the book was best approached by students in a facilitated or structured manner and ultimately the decision was made to reassign the book to the teachers' resource library."

School committee Chairwoman Tasha Buzzell admitted the entire controversy could've been handled much better. "I think it's the right result. I think it's going to be controversial, and we expect that, but I do think it's the right result. I am disappointed in a lot of ways. I think there were a lot of procedural failures. I think there's a lot of conversation that could've been had that wasn't," she said. 

As the book returns to library shelves, Gregory said, "I felt I had an obligation to use my platform to do that, and I think if I didn't do that, I'm not so sure don't think the book would be going back on the shelf this week." 

The school committee members said they plan to discuss the matter further during the committee's next meeting on February 6.

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