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Billings school board keeps "Assassination Classroom" in libraries; closes Washington

Posted at 2:01 AM, Jan 23, 2024

BILLINGS - The Billings school board voted 5 to 4 to keep "Assassination Classroom" in high school libraries.

More than five hours into the meeting at the Lincoln Center Auditorium on Monday night, trustees Tanya Ludwig, Zack Tarakedis, Janna Hafer, Teresa Larsen, and Scott McCulloch voted no on the motion to remove the book.

Trustees Brooke Wagner, Jennifer Hoffman, John VonLangen, and Andrea Nemitz voted yes to remove the book.

The book is part of a 21-volume set.

The Laurel school board recently removed the fourth book, as have other districts across the U.S. for its depiction of gun violence toward teachers.

A three-person panel reviewed the first book in the series last week and made a recommendation to the full board to remove it from school libraries.

"I just have a difficult time in our current climate in having a series of books that depicts and glorifies killing our teachers," said Hoffman, who served on the panel with Nemitz and Wagner.

The original request in October states concerns with phrases such as "I can't believe I get to kill a teacher with my own hands," which a student states in regard to a teacher who is actually an alien, who asked the students to kill him to save the world.

Many disagreed that this book is a problem.

"Our School District 2 process is complete," one woman said about keeping the book. "There are no facts before you here to justify removal."

School board members did talk about the need to update the process.

"We support the right and the responsibility of parents or guardians to determine what is suitable material for their children and to enforce those decisions," another woman said in support of the book.

And others had concerns.

"If you put this material, they're taking away the parents' liberties to not have this in there," one man said about his concern for the book.

"That is the proper role for parents and guardians to make," one man said about his concerns for the book. "Not public schools, who by including violent and sexually explicit materials in our libraries, perhaps unintentionally, but directly, provide a ringing endorsement to our children on behalf of all the taxpayers in this district, that society is okay with this content."

The board also decided to close Washington Elementary School, next school year.

A 6-1 vote among the elementary trustees, supported Superintendent Erwin Garcia's plan to close the school and turn it into a charter school, the Washington Innovative Center.

McCulloch said the board approved that the closure of Washington School will be included in a budget deficit re-plan.

He also said officially, the school will be turned over the to high school district, which will happen at a future meeting.

The proposed charter school will give students a chance to earn their associate degrees at the same time as their diplomas.

Garcia said the move would help with a $4 million deficit in the elementary district.

And he says Washington is the most expensive to operate for the number of students.

Now those 208 students will have to attend another school.