Apologies for “unfortunate event” at Decatur High

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 5, 2014
A photo of Lauren Myracle from the April 29 event posted to Tumblr by author Len Vlahos. This image has been cropped to avoid identifying DHS students.

A photo of Lauren Myracle from the Aug. 29 event posted to Tumblr by author Len Vlahos. This image has been cropped to avoid identifying DHS students.

Decatur High School Principal Noel L. Maloof sent a note apologizing to parents for an “unfortunate event” involving a Decatur Book Festival author who spoke to ninth grade students on Aug. 29.

What was the unfortunate event? According to a Decatur High School parent whose son attended the event, young adult novelist Lauren Myracle said something that caused a stir. Other sources provided details that backed up that account, but declined to specifically name the author.

Decaturish.com hasn’t been able to confirm precisely what was said, but both the Decatur Book Festival and Education Foundation apologized for it, according to Maloof’s note.

“I am confident that this was an event that was out of the norm and do not expect to be faced with this again,” Maloof wrote. “We appreciate your continued support of Decatur High School and its staff.”

City Schools of Decatur provided a copy of the note, which was also sent home to parents. It discusses the incident in vague terms and avoids language that could potentially identify the author involved.

“This year the author’s presentation strayed from the agreed upon format and discussed topics which were not approved,” Maloof wrote.

One parent who received it contacted us wondering what Maloof was talking about. The note is reprinted at the end of this story.

Myracle did not return messages seeking comment. She is best known for her “Internet Girls” book series. She’s twice earned a No.1 spot on the American Library Association’s list of books that are “frequently challenged” by people who want them removed from school libraries.

Len Vlahos, author of “The Scar Boys,” also spoke during the Aug. 29 presentation at Decatur High. He didn’t know about the letter until Decaturish contacted him.

“The teachers and librarians in the room didn’t seem put out by the kind of conversations we were having,” he said. “I am surprised by this.”

City Schools of Decatur Spokesperson Courtney Burnett didn’t know what the author had said and declined to identify her. She said the school did not pick the authors, referring questions to the Decatur Education Foundation and Decatur Book Festival sponsors. She said she was told that the organizer of the event called the author’s publicist. The Education Foundation did not return a call seeking comment.

Daren Wang, Executive Director of the Book Festival, confirmed that he had heard what happened, but declined to go into detail.

“To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t in the room,” Wang said. “I haven’t heard a full report of what was said. I know the author that did say it. I know that it upset some people, upset the people that were working on the festival that were in the room.”

The parent who spoke to Decaturish about the event relayed what her son told her Myracle said, but the exact quote couldn’t be confirmed. She said that many parents may not even know anything happened because their children didn’t give them the note.

“One of my friends didn’t get the note. The other friend didn’t get the note,” the parent said. “I think the kids probably were embarrassed because they don’t want to talk about it with their parents.”

Here is the full letter from the Principal Maloof:

Dear 9th Grade Parents,

For a number of years, Decatur High School, in conjunction with the Decatur Book Festival and Decatur Education Foundation, has hosted an author’s visit for our students. These visits have historically been connected to a book that has been offered to our students as a reading option or someone who is a keynote author for the book festival. We have a long-standing expectation for all visiting authors that they discuss the writing process and how they develop their novels. This year the author’s presentation strayed from the agreed upon format and discussed topics which were not approved.  I have subsequently been in touch with the Decatur Education Foundation and Decatur Book Festival Sponsors to let them know of this unfortunate event. I would like to extend my most sincere apology that this happened and will work to prevent this from happening in the future. The Decatur Book Festival and Decatur Education Foundation also extend their most sincere apology. They will be working with authors and publishers to see that future visits are age and school appropriate for our students. I am confident that this was an event that was out of the norm and do not expect to be faced with this again. We appreciate your continued support of Decatur High School and its staff.

Sincerely,

Noel L. Maloof,

Principal

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

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