SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) — Following months-long debate, the Big Walnut Local School District voted on a controversial book ban.

The conversation began after parents voiced concern to the board of education about “Looking for Alaska” and potentially dozens of other books for being too sexually explicit. During a five hour meeting the board voted to keep the book in the curriculum. If passed, the books would have been removed from the school’s curriculum and library.

Hundreds of students at Big Walnut High School participated in a walkout on Thursday to protest the potential ban. Organizer Isabelle Carr said it was amazing to see how many were outside chanting and showing their passion for books.

“It is so important for students these days to be educated and these books really tell the morals that I think students these days really need to be knowing,” Carr said.

Carr was shocked when the list came out. She has been attending board meetings along with other students to speak in opposition of the ban.

“I’ve read pretty much almost half of them and I never even thought once ‘Oh no, these are terrible, they’re going to scar me,’ you know,” said Carr. “I really just thought about the morals that they are displaying.”

Big Walnut parents and advocacy groups said they were proud to see the students standing up against the board. Liana Lee with the Big Walnut Community Advocates for Public Education said the board has more important things that should be on their agenda, like an expiring levy and the huge influx of people moving to the area with intel on the way.

“We really need to be focused on the fact that we trust our teachers,” said Lee. “We trust our teachers to make the best decisions for our kids. We know that they are making good curriculum choices.”

Lee has also attended and spoke at board meetings. She said she is disappointed with the way they’ve handled this.

“I know at the last meeting the majority of the board members said they hadn’t even read the book and this has been an agenda item since September,” Lee said. “I think that is pretty frustrating when you are looking to possibly ban something when you haven’t even opened the book.”

Superintendent Ryan McLane said when a book gets challenged, it is standard practice for the board to review it. He said those parents have the right to challenge it. After review, a committee sends a recommendation to him. He said the latest recommendation was to allow “Looking for Alaska” to remain in the curriculum, so he made that recommendation to the board as well.

However, the board put it to an official vote at their 6 p.m. board meeting at Big Walnut High School. Read the full statement from the superintendent below:

Looking for Alaska has been used as a curriculum resource in our high school English class for years. This year it was one of the options students could choose from. It was not required reading for any student. Looking for Alaska was one of over 20 books a member of our community has formally challenged. When a book gets challenged, our practice in compliance with board policy is to create a committee to review the book. That committee consists of the assistant superintendent, building principal, the district’s media specialist, a teacher who teaches the class, a representative of the Sunbury Community Library, and two parents of students currently in the class in which the book is being used. That committee then makes a recommendation to me. That recommendation was unanimous to allow Looking for Alaska to remain in our high school library as well as to be a curriculum resource in the high school English class. As a result, that was my recommendation to the board of education in November.

As part of our district’s policy, that community member had the right to appeal the decision to the board of education. The board will vote tonight to determine if Looking for Alaska will remain in our school.

A student led walkout did occur this afternoon. The students conducted their protest within the parameters of board policy regarding such demonstrations, and no student was disciplined as a result of their participation. In walking the building, I observed students who chose not to participate in class receiving instruction from their teachers.