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Glendale School Board Split on Whether True Crime Novel 'In Cold Blood' Is Too Cold and Too Bloody for High Schoolers

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Glendale Unified School District is thinking twice about giving its stamp of approval to Truman Capote's novel "In Cold Blood," according to the Glendale News-Press.

The book documents the brutal and baffling murder of wealthy Kansas farmer Herbert Clutter. Glendale High School English teacher Holly Ciotti thought it would make a good addition to her AP English syllabus. She says it's a well-written book that introduces students to complicated and relevant issues in the American judicial system, such as the debate over the death penalty.

The district's English curriculum committee, which is composed of teachers, didn't have a problem with it. It was the secondary education council, composed of high school principals, that had an issue — and the PTA wasn't hot on it either. The book got put to a vote by the school board. It's split 2-2, and one more board member is withholding judgment until she reads it.

Opponents who don't want "In Cold Blood" in the hands of AP students say that kids these days are already inundated with violence when they play video games or go to the movies.

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"I think 'chilling' is far too benign a word to use," school board member Mary Boger said of the book during a recent meeting, according to the paper. She added: "I just believe there are other pieces of literature that will fulfill the needs that this teacher is representing to us. I don't think we need to use this particular book."

Proponents say opponents are missing the point — reading a book about a violent incident in class gives teachers and adults a chance to talk about violence in class. School board member Nayiri Nahabedian emphasized that the district can address any parental objections on a case-by-case basis.

"Yes, our kids are exposed to many, many different terrible violent situations on TV, in video games and on the Internet and in the movies," Nahabedian said. "This gives them an opportunity to have a conversation and to be able to really have an adult person, a teacher, move though the material with them."

Ciotti told the Glendale News-Press that she didn't frame the current debate as an issue of academic freedom or censorship, though she did say the debate caught her off-guard.

"I was totally surprised by this opposition, really surprised,"Ciotti said.