Parent Files Complaint Over Summer School Reading

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(Editor's Note: Includes subject matter some readers may find objectionable.)

- A Massachusetts parent has filed a complaint with local police over an allegedly "pornographic" summer school reading assignment for high school students that involves bestiality and other sexually explicit material.

Mary Clossey filed her report with the Newton, Mass. Police Department Friday after learning that her 15-year-old son had been assigned to read 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky.

Internet bookseller describes the book as the "funny, touching, memorable first novel from Stephen Chbosky," and praised it for "the resounding accuracy with which the author captures the voice of a boy teetering on the brink of adulthood." But Clossey takes a different view of the 213-page novel.

"I objected to it because of the different kinds of sex," she said. "We have sodomy, we have bestiality, sex with the dog, it's all in here."

The incident has captured the attention of the Massachusetts-based Parents' Rights Coalition, a family advocacy group, which published excerpts of the book on its Internet website.

Clossey said she first started examining the book July 19 when she picked up her son from Newton North High School, where he's attending a summer tutorial designed to prepare students entering the 10th grade for the state's standardized testing.

According to Clossey, her son said the book had been given to him as an assignment from a list of recommended summer reading material. "I kept skimming this book and I was not believing what I was reading," she said. "I finally called the school and spoke with the principal." described the book as being appropriate for a "young adult" reader, but Clossey disagreed and said the school did as well. "I was told that [the school was] going to inform all parents that the book was inappropriate," said Clossey.

Not knowing precisely what to do, she said she contacted the office of the mayor and then the police.

"I went down to the Newton police station and I filed a report," on Friday, Clossey said. "They in turn have to notify the Middlesex County District Attorney's office, which they have done."

Authorities said the complaint had been referred to prosecutors but for the time being, the police have determined the matter to be out of the jurisdiction of law enforcement, according to Newton Police Chief Frank R. Gorgone.

A youth officer with whom an initial complaint was filed "conferred with a supervisor and, after reviewing several sections of Massachusetts General Laws, advised (Clossey) that the issue was not a police matter," said Gorgone in a statement.

Police also referred that matter to Newton North High School Principal Jennifer Huntington.

Clossey said she's pleased so far with the response of school officials to her concerns, but added, "I think the school could have been more alert, and when you have a book with this content, I think they should have read the book first."

Numerous attempts to reach the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office and Newton North High School officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Clossey said she isn't sure where to turn at this point, but she's not ready to let the issue drop either, and she's hoping local prosecutors can offer some guidance.

"After talking with people, I guess what I want is an obscenity charge," she said, adding that the district attorney's office had not responded to her inquiries Monday afternoon.