And for a high school in Portage, IN, it also equals attention from journalists and student rights advocates alike. There are two issues at hand. One is the banning of a book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, from the ninth grade English curriculum. The other is a decision by the school administration to institute a policy of prior review of the student newspaper after an article on the decision to ban the book was published.
In removing the book, district administrators have bowed to the objections of a single parent, thus infringing on the First Amendment rights of students who want to read the book. Prior review – meaning that school administrators will be in the position to vet all articles before publication – imposes a chilling effect, threatening to limit the issues students choose to report on. For example, student journalists may be reluctant to write articles critical of school administrators’ decisions, knowing that such an article must first be submitted to them for approval.
So, not only have school administrators banned a book in this case, but the newly instituted policy of prior review compounds the matter, threatening to further censor student reading, as well as student speech.