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Keep Absolutely True Diary in Sweet Home, OR Schools

Keep Absolutely True Diary in Sweet Home, OR Schools

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Published by ncacensorship
NCAC's Kids' Right to Read Project weighs in on a challenge to the use of Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
NCAC's Kids' Right to Read Project weighs in on a challenge to the use of Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Published by: ncacensorship on Feb 11, 2014
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05/06/2014

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A project of the National Coalition Against Censorship
CO-SPONSORED BY
 
American Booksellers Foundation for Free ExpressionAssociation of American Publishers Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407, New York, NY 10038 212-807-6222 www.ncac.org/Kids-Right-to-Read
TWITTER
 @KidsRight2Read
FACEBOOK 
 /ncacorg
 Kids’ Right to Read Project
NCAC
Members, Reconsideration Committee Sweet Home School District 1920 Long Street Sweet Home, Oregon 97386 February 5, 2014Dear Committee Members,We are writing in regards to the challenge to Sherman Alexie’s
 Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
in Sweet Home public schools. We understand that some citizens in the district object to language and sexual content in the book. We urge you to stand by district educators and retain use of this book in 8th grade classrooms.
 Absolutely True Diary
 is a largely autobiographical account of the author’s upbringing in Spokane, WA, in circumstances not together unfamiliar to many students in Sweet Home. The book is beloved by teens and adults alike for its uplifting story of triumph by a boy with few advantages as well as its honest, fresh voice. It is selected by teachers across the coun-try for its appeal to reluctant readers and because it serves to introduce vital issues such as the struggles of young adult-hood, the search for personal identity, bullying and poverty. The literary value of this novel is widely recognized and it has won numerous awards including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2007, the 2008 Book Sense
Book of the Year Children’s Literature Honor Book, the 2008 Pacic Northwest Book Award, and the 2008 American
Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award, among many others.Before the book was introduced in Sweet Home middle school classrooms this year, district teachers sent home an exten-sive packet detailing the pedagogical value of Sherman Alexie’s novel, explaining how it would be taught, informing par-ents about its content and contextualizing said content within the overall message of the work. Those parents who wished their child to read an alternate assignment were not only able to do so, they were afforded the opportunity to personally select which text their child would read instead. To go further and remove the book potentially violates the constitutional rights of other students and parents. What’s more, the practical effect of acceding to any parent’s request to censor materi-
als will be to invite more challenges, and to leave school ofcials vulnerable to multiple, possibly conicting demands.
Removing a book because some object to, or disapprove of, its content violates basic constitutional principles. Govern-
ment ofcials, including public school administrators, may not prohibit “the expression of an idea simply because society nds 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
 (1982) (“local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply be
-
cause they dislike the ideas contained in those books …”)
The First Amendment guarantees certain individual rights that may not be infringed by state actors, including public school educators, even with the mandate or approval of the majority. More than 60 years ago, the Supreme Court held
that “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and ofcials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the

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