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Middle Schools Will Keep Controversial Book Some Say ‘Running Loose’ Is Too Explicit For Children To Read

Dan Hansen Dan Webster Contributed To Staff writer

An award-winning book written by a local author will not be removed from Spokane middle schools, despite a complaint it contains sexually explicit scenes and foul language.

The complainant, who was not identified but apparently is a teacher, asked Spokane School District officials to take Chris Crutcher’s book, “Running Loose,” off the middle school reading list. The teacher asked that it be placed on the high school reading list instead.

Among the passages that sparked the complaint is one in which a bully brags about tricking his date into grasping his penis by inserting it through the bottom of a box of popcorn.

The narrator, also a boy, discounts the story, calling it an example of “weirdball garbage that, if it really happened, would cheapen her.”

“The eighth-graders that I work with are not mature enough to handle this writing,” the complainant wrote in a letter to school officials. “I believe parents would disapprove if they were to review the book.”

“Running Loose,” which was named one of the best books of the 1980s by the American Library Association, is one of several that Spokane students can read as part of the district’s Crossroads reading unit. The unit is based on the theme of decision-making.

A review committee formed after the teacher complained found “that the major themes in the book are very appropriate for the Crossroads unit and more specifically for middle school students,” Associate Superintendent Cynthia Lambarth wrote in response to the complaint.

“In my opinion, the concerns you identified do not detract in any significant way from the overriding and important theme of the book and its value to adolescents.”

Crutcher said last week that he wasn’t surprised to hear about the complaint. The book was banned last year by a school district in Berlin, Pa., also for what Crutcher calls “the popcorn scene.”

“It happens all the time with ‘Running Loose,”’ said Crutcher, a child and family therapist, and author of several best-selling books for young adults.

Crutcher said the popcorn scene is an urban legend he first heard in the fifth grade. It was told in the movie, “Diner.”

He said he used it to illustrate the inappropriate behavior of a bully in the book and the good character of the book’s protagonist, who dismissed the story.

“‘Running Loose’ is not a book about popcorn and penises,” Crutcher wrote in a letter to the Berlin school board. “It is a book about injustice and it is a book about loss. It is a book about standing up for oneself and it is a book about getting through tough situations.

“All the popcorn scene does is help tell the reader what a damaged person (the bully) really is.”

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Dan Hansen Staff writer Staff writer Dan Webster contributed to this report.

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