In Ohio, a public high school is asking ninth-grade students to read a graphic slam poetry book. The book discusses a young girl abandoning her Christian faith, talking to drug dealers, and partaking in sexual acts.
The school in question, Hilliard Bradley High School, in Columbus, Ohio, has requested that its ninth-grade student read a slam poetry book called “The Poet X” for their English classes. The program provided very limited alternatives and had to be opted-out by parents if they did not feel comfortable with the graphic content of the book.
The first two pages of the required poetry are a trip. The underaged main character, Xiomara, addresses drug dealers who cat-call her. The drug dealer even at one point says that “church girls are all freaks.”
“Ayo, Xiomara, you need to start wearing dresses like that,” the poem states. “Shit, you’d be wifed up before going back to school. Especially knowing you church girls are all freaks.”
The main section of the plot of the poem is that Xiomara believes that her religion, Christianity, is hindering her ability to live free even though it is the bedrock of her familial values. Near the start of the book, Xiomara explains how she really wants to tell her mother that Jesus is “a friend I just don’t think I need anymore.”
“It’s not any one thing that makes me wonder about the capital G.O.D.
About a holy trinity that doesn’t include the mother. It’s all the things.
Just seems as I got older I began to really see the way that church treats a girl like me differently. Sometimes it feels all I’m worth is under my skirt and not between my ears.
Sometimes I feel that turning the other cheek could get someone like my brother killed. Sometimes I feel my life would be easier if I didn’t feel like such a debt to a God that don’t really seem to be out here checking for me.”
As it progresses, the book starts to describe graphic sexual activities. A poem entitled “fingers” describes masturbation. Another titled “hands,” talks about Xiomara toucher her love interest in a classroom. This leads to another where it describes Xiomara and her love interest preparing to have sexual intercourse.
The poem was authored by Elizabeth Acevedo, a National Poetry Slam Champion and daughter of Dominican immigrants. Acevedo won many prestigious poetry prizes for “The Poet X.”
Donna Senchesak, the Director of the Parents for Educational Rights chapter in Ohio and a Hilliard Bradley Parent, stated that the district’s goal was to provide poetry written by non-white authors, but she was confused why the school had to pick such a graphic book.
“I am still fighting for these students and parents even though my daughter does not have to read it anymore,” Senchesak stated. “I am concerned for kids … that they can’t handle it.”
Senchesak states that she asked the school’s principal to meet with her and was denied a meeting after her daughter was pulled from the class.