Some parents and students in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District are concerned their elected trustees will keep a book about the Iranian revolution out of a high school classroom.

The book is called “Persepolis: The Story of Childhood” an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi which depicts her life growing up in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah and the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s – that could be core and extended reading material for high schoolers.

Trustee Leandra Blades at the March 14 board meeting expressed concerns with the language used in the book towards women and said students could repeat the vulgar words.

“In this book, they’re calling the women sluts and whores, and people are pissing on people in here, there’s graphic pictures of that. And so are we saying that this is acceptable behavior to put into our classroom?” she said.

Since heated discussions about Critical Race Theory began hitting school boards across the country a few years ago, many conservative school board members – like Blades – have increasingly become critical of teaching materials used in classrooms. 

[Read: Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory: A Tumultuous Year for OC School Boards]

Most recently, Florida officials have been reviewing public schools books before recommending classrooms adopt them. Officials there have cast a wary eye on subjects centered on race, according to the New York Times

One publisher, the NY Times reported, even omitted race in the telling of the Rosa Parks story in a social studies book for Florida’s first graders.

Locally, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District has faced criticism of censorship from parents, students and PEN America, a literary rights organization, for their ban on Critical Race Theory last year – despite district officials saying it’s not taught in the classroom.

In Placentia, Blades said there has been a problem with students using “certain terms” at school. 

She also said kids in the district listen to 90s gangster rap and use words from the songs on the playground.

The district’s top official pushed back on Blades.

Superintendent Michael Matthews said if there is no discussion of atrocities like the holocaust, slavery and the degradation of women in Iran in the 1970s, then the district is not properly teaching those historical events.

“That’s just knowledge of what happened. It creates outstanding discussions along the way. Do we condone the language? Of course we don’t condone the language. Do we recognize that kind of treatment happened to other human beings in the world? Yes, we do,” he said.

Blades said books without profanity can be used instead.

“So in the meantime, we’re going to ban books,” Trustee Carrie Buck responded.

“Who’s talking about banning books?” Blades shot back.

“That’s exactly what this is talking about,” Buck said, questioning if the book would be allowed in libraries if not approved.

Blades said it would be fine in the library.

The book itself, along with many others, was banned in Iran.

And in Chicago in 2013, Barbara Byrd-Bennett – the public schools chief then – called for the book to be removed from 7th grade classrooms because of its depiction of torture. The move sparked public outcry.

Placentia School District Wrestles With Book Approval

Linda Adamson, the district’s assistant superintendent of Educational Services, outlined the process in which books get approval at last week’s meeting which involves various committee approvals, testing the book with students and publicly displaying it.

Afterwards, trustees vote on the book’s approval before adding it to the reading list, but parents can still choose for their kids not to read the book and request an alternative novel to work on.

Persepolis has been approved by the District’s Literature Review committee for the core and extended reading list at the request of 11th grade International Baccalaureate teachers.

Despite Blades’ concerns, trustees unanimously voted to move forward with a 30-day display of the book at the district offices. The book is expected to come back before the board for classroom approval in April.

Trustee Todd Frazier called for changing the review process to require board approval before a book is piloted by students and for parents to be notified about students piloting books. Board President Shawn Youngblood and Blades supported the idea.

“We probably need to just make sure that we’re saying … we the five of us are okay, letting the kids pilot this book,” Frazier said.

But not everyone wants the board involved.

“I want trained professionals – the experienced educators of PYLUSD – to determine which books should be piloted in the classroom, not board members with no expertise in curriculum development,” said Shani Murray, a district parent, in a Friday email.

Buck also expressed concern over the board weighing on what books should be piloted, but support for notifying parents when a book is being piloted.

“I’m afraid that we’re going to be limiting books and removing them before we even have a chance to pilot them,” she said.

The review of Persepolis comes about a month after the former interim superintendent at Orange Unified School District temporarily suspended the district’s digital library after a couple parents complained about age inappropriate books being available to young students.

[Read: Orange Unified School District Reinstates Digital Library After Parent Concerns]

It also comes as cities across Orange County are passing resolutions and making proclamations in support of the Iranian American community and condemning the country’s violent regime.

These resolutions were made months after the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman detained by the country’s notorious morality police that sparked a national uprising.

[Read: City Officials Across Orange County Are Taking a Stand Against Iran’s Violent Regime]

Two students who were part of the pilot program for the Iranian revolution book gave their thoughts on the issue to Voice of OC. 

They didn’t want their names published out of fear of retribution from district officials or parents. 

“The derogatory terms in question were used within the book as a means to explain to others that it is never okay to use these words in ANY context,” one student wrote about the book.

Another student also said the author’s use of vulgar words was intended to discourage that type of language.

“I believe that we’re mature enough to handle words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ and look beyond them to understand the big picture of the book,” the student said.

“There’re just so many more important things to unpack than that.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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