UPDATE: The school board voted to retain the book; click here to read the news story.
Parents have challenged a book’s placement in the school library at Magruder Elementary School in York County, VA because they object to war references in one of the stories it contains. NCAC submitted the following letter to the editors of the Daily Press:
To the Editors:
Magruder Elementary School Principal Mary Ahearn and York County School Division Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Parish should be applauded for their decision to keep the book, Tripping Over the Lunch Lady: And Other School Stories in the school library. This critically acclaimed anthology for children edited by Nancy E. Mercado is a series of first-person narratives written for elementary school children whose stories address issues relevant to this age group such as fitting in and making friends. While many parents support the book, some have objected to war references in one of the stories. Without questioning the sincerity of those objections, their views are not shared by all, and they have no right to tell other people what their children may read. We urge the school board in its upcoming decision to stand by First Amendment principles and to keep the book on Magruder’s library shelves, available to all.
After all, those who object to the book do not have to read it. Participation in Magruder’s school-wide “One Book for All” program is optional, and no one has to read a book simply because it’s on the library shelf. Some parents may prefer to keep their children from reading references to war, such as those included in Tripping Over the Lunch Lady, while others may appreciate the opportunity for adults and children to discuss a difficult topic. The First Amendment gives all parents the opportunity to make choices about their children’s education.
Schools like Marguder Elementary should continue to provide library resources that reflect a diversity of ideas and encourage students and families to read and learn together. In our experience, controversies of this sort are best handled by enriching the array of library materials available, not restricting it, and by including more voices in the conversation rather than silencing any. These critical educational goals – the goals that inspire the First Amendment – cannot be achieved by modifying the library holdings to reflect specific beliefs or sensitivities.
We urge the YCSD School Board to stand by the principle that is so essential to individual freedom, democracy, and a good education: the right to read, inquire, question, and think for ourselves.
CC: York County School Division School Board, R. Page Minter, Chairman