New York, NY, 9/21/2017- The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and 4 other organizations committed to defending youth intellectual freedom are praising a California school board for rejecting calls to restrict classroom reading following a controversy involving the reading of a book about a transgender girl. The board met on Monday night to review their literature policy in light of the controversy but voted unanimously to keep it unchanged.
Several months ago, a transitioning kindergartner at the Rocklin Academy, California, selected Jessica Herthel’s I Am Jazz as her choice for story time reading. The children’s book tells the story of real life transgender activist Jazz Jennings who struggles with having “a girl brain but a boy body.” Parents who considered the topic of gender identity too sensitive for kindergartners were distressed they had not been notified about the reading in advance. Some even threatened to sue.
In a letter sent prior to the board meeting, NCAC supported Rocklin Academy’s decision to read the book citing California educational standards, which promote broad cultural literacy. It underlined that a decision to restrict books that cover certain subject matter, such as gender identity, will cast a negative light on that material regardless of its educational value.
Although the board voted to retain its literature policies, it adopted a provision to forewarn parents prior to the teaching potentially controversial subject matter. NCAC warns that flagging reading as “controversial” may end inviting complaints that disrupt the educational process.
The letter was signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Authors Guild, National Council of Teachers of English and the Association of American Publishers.
“The First Amendment protects the rights of students to read and learn anything that is educationally appropriate,” said NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program Associate Abena Hutchful. “We applaud Rocklin Academy’s decision to affirm its commitment to its students’ freedom to read.”
Read the initial letter below; click here for a full screen view.