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Traverse City Letter From KRRP

Traverse City Letter From KRRP

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Published by ncacensorship

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Published by: ncacensorship on Dec 14, 2012
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12/14/2012

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 Members, Board of EducationTraverse City Area Public Schools412 Webster StreetTraverse City, MI 49686December 6, 2012Dear Members of the Traverse City Board of Education,It is our understanding that the Board will vote on Monday, December 10,2012 whether or not to remove Jeannette Walls’ memoir
The Glass Castle
from the 9
th
grade Honors English summer reading list. As organizationsconcerned with intellectual freedom and education, we urge you to retain thebook, and not to set a precedent of removing a book from the educationalprogram because some people object to its content or message. It would bean unfortunate precedent that would open the district to unlimited challengesto materials that have been carefully selected by professional educators.
The Glass Castle
won the American Library Association Alex Award foradult books that have “special appeal” for teenage readers. It is also a best-selling book, evidence that the ALA judgment is shared by young readers.Indeed, the book was selected because the Teacher Steering committee feltit would be of interest to your students, many of whom have perhapswitnessed or dealt with family dysfunction similar to that described in thebook. Considering its themes of overcoming hardship, understanding theimportance of relationships, and forgiveness, one can see why teachersselected
The Glass Castle
as the summer reading assignment.We are deeply concerned that, notwithstanding the merits of this text, thereconsideration committee recommended banning it, a judgment thatconflicts with that of the educators in your district who originally selectedthe book and the view of educators around the country who recommend it.Under the circumstances, it might be appropriate to consider notifyingparents about the content of the book and offering an alternative readingassignment, a solution that would address the concerns of the complainingparents and respect the rights of parents who want their children’s educationto include challenging material like this selection. This would be a muchbetter course of action, from an educational, policy and and legal
 
perspective, than removing the book from a reading list in response to a complaint aboutits content or message.Removing a book because some object to, or disapprove of, its content violates basicconstitutional principles. Government officials, including public school administrators,may not prohibit “the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
Texas v. Johnson
(1989); see also
 Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico
(1983) (“local school boards may notremove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained inthose books…”).The task of selecting curricular materials properly belongs to professional educators.Those decisions are rarely overturned when schools include material that has educationalvalue, even if it is controversial, whereas rejection of controversial material may make aschool district vulnerable to legal challenge. See
 Monteiro v. Tempe Union High School District 
(9
th
Cir. 1998) (recognizing the First Amendment right of students to read booksselected for their “legitimate educational value”),
Parker v. Hurley
(1
st
Cir. 2008)(rejecting effort to remove books that offend parents’ and students’ religious beliefs),
Pratt v. Independent School Dist. No. 831
(8
th
Cir. 1982) (First Amendment violatedwhen films removed because of hostility to content and message), and
Case v. Unified School Dist. No. 233
(D. Kan. 1995) (First Amendment violated by removing a book from school library based on hostility to its ideas.)While parents are free to request an alternative assignment for their children, they haveno right to impose their views on others or to demand that otherwise educationallyworthy materials be removed, merely because they consider it objectionable, offensive, orinappropriate. The attached “Guideline on Censorship” by the National Council of Teachers of English, in particular “Strategies for the Classroom Teacher in Dealing withCensors,” offer practical suggestions and advice about ways that school districts andeducators can respond to and avoid complaints about curricular materials which respectboth educational priorities and constitutional principles.Please also see the National Coalition Against Censorship’s “Guide to the FirstAmendment in Schools” (http://ncac.org/First-Amendment-Schools/avoiding-censorship), as well as its “Book Censorship Toolkit” (attached). If you would like moreinformation about book challenges and related issues in public schools, do not hesitate tocontact the NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read Project.Literature helps prepare students for the future by providing opportunities to exploredifficult issues they, or someone they know, may encounter in life. Individual freedom,democracy, and a good education all depend on protecting the right to read, inquire,question and think for ourselves. We strongly urge you to retain
The Glass Castle
on the9
th
grade Honors English reading list.If we can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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