Banned Books: School Board Faces another Book Challenge
Haven’t we resolved the issue of censorship and book banning already? Why must we continue to fight this same battle over and over and over again?
In yet another book challenge, this time one of our local school districts must respond to a parental challenge to a novel on the AP reading syllabus. I’m not even going to name the book because it doesn’t matter. Suffice to say we aren’t talking about blatantly inappropriate material in this case; we are talking about a book that has won numerous awards, sold over 38 million copies worldwide, and is exquisitely written.
The book which has been challenged in our local district deals with sensitive topics which offends the values held by the challengers. The topics in the book make them uncomfortable and they therefore do not wish their child to have access to this book. In this particular case, the book in question was assigned to the entire class, however, neither the parent nor the student ever requested an alternate book. In addition, the parents signed, and therefore approved, the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. The student has been in AP classes and has previously read controversial books, so why the challenge now? And why was no alternate book requested?
What matters is that students have freedom of choice in book selection. What matters is that students have the opportunity to deal with sensitive, challenging topics in the safety of a classroom with a skilled educator. What matters is that students are allowed to explore ideas and situations between the safe covers of a book, to discuss their fears, anxieties, and have their opinions validated.
At the very core, it seems this censorship is a challenge to the First Amendment. In Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the Supreme Court ruled that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the front door of the schoolhouse. In Tinker, Justice Brennan wrote that the First Amendment protects students’ right to both express and receive ideas.
Censorship of high school reading material was considered by the Supreme Court in 1982 with the Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v Pico. In this case, the…