In response to a complaint from a parent of an elementary school student, three high school libraries in Florida have restricted access to an award-winning graphic novel. A coalition of free speech and freedom to read groups are recommending the school district reverse this move.
A parent of a third grade student at Sabal Point Elementary School in Longwood complained about some of the language in This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. The district removed the book from the library, but then also had it removed from open shelves at three high schools in the district.
Using a complaint from the parent of an elementary school student to restrict access to a book geared towards teen readers is an unorthodox and troubling maneuver. A letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)—signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, National Council of Teachers of English, American Library Association, and the PEN American Center's Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee—points out that the decision undermines the freedom to read:
While the book may be above the maturity and reading level of elementary school students, its value for young adults at the high school level has been recognized by leading professionals. The book may not be of interest to every student, but as per Seminole County Public Schools’ own policies, “The [school’s educational media] center shall provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal, and the representation of different points of view.”
The letter also notes that the decision appears to violate Seminole County's policies regarding challenged materials, and raises broader questions as well:
Restricting a book with such established literary merit in three high school libraries solely because a parent complained about its content being inappropriate for her own elementary-aged child privileges the values of one person over the entire community, and raises serious constitutional concerns.
The letter calls on the district to restore full access to the book. It can be read below; click here for a full-screen view.
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