Barthe DeClements’ award-winning Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You has been challenged for a school library removal in Rosemount – Apple Valley – Eagan Public Schools (District 196) near the Twin Cities in Minnesota. A parent filed a complaint over the use of the word “retarded” in the story and the book is now under formal review.
KRRP has sent a letter to the review committee urging them to retain the work, explaining that “while we understand the complainant’s concern, censoring a book because some people find it objectionable would undermine educational principles and raise serious constitutional questions.”
Regarding the use of language, the letter points to the context of the story:
The author’s choice of language confronts the teasing and casual cruelty often encountered by students with learning disabilities. According to one teacher who posted a review of the book online, “DeClements did a great job depicting Helen’ s challenges with a learning disability as she navigates sixth grade and finally finds some answers in the end. This book is great for teachers like myselfbecause it allows us to see the impact the ” little things” we choose to do or not to do can have on a student. It’ s a great book for students because it depicts Helen’ s decision-making processes and the ramifications as she chooses to utilize the special ed. room as a resource to help her read.”
The letter also addresses school officials’ “constitutional obligation not to suppress material because some find it objectionable or offensive” and advises that a library book on the shelf does not obligate anyone to read it, or agree with it.