Issue 61, Spring 1996

A widely watched book censorship trial has ended with a resounding victory for the First Amendment.

A federal judge ruled that the Olathe, Kansas school system had violated students’ and parents’ First Amendment rights when it ordered that all copies of the book Annie on My Mind be removed from high school library shelves. The book is the story of Annie and Liza, who meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, fall in love and consequently struggle with declaring their homosexuality to family and friends.

The court ruling, based on the 1982 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Education v. Pico, described the Board’s censorship action as “viewpoint discrimination.”

Illinois Middle School Disinvites Author

Norma Fox Mazer is the award-winning author of dozens of books for children and young adults. Early this year she received an invitation from the MacArthur Middle School in Prospect Heights, Illinois to an April workshop to address sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. Author workshops are a popular way to bring books alive for kids. Meeting writers excites children about books and encourages children to write their own stories.

Ms. Mazer enthusiastically attends many such events each year, so she was dismayed, when in February, she received a fax from a MacArthur Middle School media teacher retracting their invitation.

“Our school district,” said the fax, “is presently involved in a censorship issue. In order to have a successful author visit we think our students should have read some of your books. Since many of your books deal with sensitive subjects and contain realistic but somewhat crude dialog our teachers feel that encouraging our students, especially our sixth graders, to read your books may add fuel to the fire of controversy going on in the district at this time.”

When teachers, librarians and others concerned with education begin to act out of fear of what censors may think, then the censors have won without even a struggle.

Washington State ‘Zine Sellers Vindicated

In Bellingham, WA, magazine store owner Ira Stohl and manager Kristina Hjelsand were acquitted in January of criminal obscenity charges for selling the ‘zine Answer Me!. The prosecutor had tried to buy off Stohl and Hjelsand by offering to drop the charges if they would agree not to stock such materials in the future. Their courageous refusal to bow to censorship was vindicated by the jury.

In thanking us for consulting with the Newstand from the beginning of the controversy when she first called NCAC, Hjelsand said, “As a Censorship News reader, I knew my instinct to fight back was right (Censorship News 58).”