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Letter to Sumner County Schools re: Banning of Looking For Alaska

Letter to Sumner County Schools re: Banning of Looking For Alaska

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Published by ncacensorship

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: ncacensorship on May 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/13/2013

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 May 14, 2012Del PhillipsDirector of Schools695 East Main StreetGallatin, T.N. 37066del.phillips@sumnerschools.org Dear Dr. Phillips,We are deeply concerned by the recent banning of 
 Looking for Alaska
by John Greene from high schoolclassrooms in Sumner County. Our concerns relate both to the decision to remove the book, and to theway in which the decision was reached and implemented. It is particularly disturbing that the complaintof one parent triggered a county-wide ban within the span of a single week, without followingestablished procedure and without so much as a review of the literary and educational merits of thebook.Based on the facts as we understand them, the district failed to follow its own procedures for removingthe book in several respects. No formal, written complaint was ever filed, nor was there any effort toresolve the issue at the local school level, even though your policy both requires “the complainant tosubmit a formal ‘Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials’ and states “it is the desire of the Board for such issues to be resolved at the lowest level possible.” Against the stipulations of BoardPolicy, the challenged materials were removed immediately, no materials review committee wasappointed nor convened to discuss the challenged text and no “recognized and evaluative reviews” wereconsulted. It is particularly disturbing that attempts by the teacher to offer an alternative assignmentwere ignored. This practice has been used successfully in the past to resolve many similar complaints.Instead, Sumner County officials acquiesced to pressure from a single individual, jumping to ban thebook throughout the county. As a result, the district has imposed one viewpoint on the entire studentbody, without regard to the educational consequences for students.Nor is there a sound educational rationale for the district’s action. John Greene’s highly praised andcritically acclaimed novel deals with issues of friendship, self-discovery and loss—issues that manyteenagers are dealing with themselves. The book was awarded the American Library Association’sprestigious Michael L. Printz Award, which is given annually to “the best book written for teens, basedentirely on its literary merit.” Green’s novel was chosen because he “writes with intimacy, humor, andinsight about a world where intense friendship can lead to devastating loss.” Kirkus Reviews calls thenovel a “gorgeously told tale” that “sings and soars, because of “Green’s mastery of language…. Girlswill cry and boys will find love, lust, loss and longing” in the novel.The book is immensely popular with high school students and was in fact
selected 
by the students in thisclass at White House High School, including the complaining student.

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