VICTORY: After students, parents and teachers spoke up, the superintendent reversed course and the books will remain in classroom libraries.
Another week, another case of censorship in a New Jersey town.
NCAC was alerted today that the superintendent of Lumberton District in Burlington County is demanding that all copies of John Green's Looking for Alaska be pulled from middle school classroom libraries after one parent complained.
Looking for Alaska, critically acclaimed but oft challenged in recent years, is not even part of the curriculum at Lumberton Middle School. Instead, it's part of each classroom's set of resources — "Material," as the district's Policy 2530 explains, that is "suited to the varied interests, abilities, reading levels, and maturation levels of the pupils being served." It also must be "of genuine literary or artistic value."
Indeed, Green's novel was awarded the American Library Association’s prestigious Michael L. Printz Award, given annually to “the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.” Looking for Alaska was chosen because he “writes with intimacy, humor, and insight about a world where intense friendship can lead to devastating loss.” It has been in Lumberton's 7th and 8th grade classrooms, to be checked out, just as in a schoolwide library, for years.
After a parent complained about "sexual content," however, Superintendent Joseph Langowski apparently ordered teachers to remove the book immediately, without regard for district policy. No written complaint was made, as is required in Policy 9130 (Public Complaints and Grievances). No committee was formed to weigh the educational and literary value in the book, as is required in the policy. And the kicker?
No challenged material may be removed from the curriculum or from a collection of resource materials except by action of the Board of Education, and no challenged material may be removed solely because it presents ideas that may be unpopular or offensive to some.
From what we understand, the board doesn't yet have any idea what the superintendent did. Seeing as how these policies are designed to protect educators, administrators, students, and the works available to them, we imagine they might be keen to find out.
We're on the case.