Issue 94, Summer 2004

  • A Boston College student was arrested near a military recruitment office in Boston for protesting US treatment of Iraqi detainees. Joseph Privatera stood silently on a stand, dressed in a black cape and hood, with stereo wires dangling from his fingers. Police charged him with making a bomb threat, a serious offense, but charges were later dropped.
  • At Fowler High School in Fowler, CO, first-year teacher Sara McCleary was not rehired because she assigned to ninth-grade English students The Diary of Anne Frank. After a parent objected to a sexual reference, the School Board terminated her contract and removed the book from classrooms, leaving a single copy in the library.
  • The Slam Poetry Team was disbanded at Rio Rancho High School in Albuquerque, NM, poetry classes were banned, and the teacher and club adviser, Bill Nevins, was fired—all because a student read a poem (on closed-circuit tv) critical of the Iraqi war and federal educational policies. The principal accused the student of being “un-American.” The entire Albuquerque school system cracked down on teachers who permitted expression of anti-war views, suspending teachers who refused to remove anti-war posters from classrooms. Nevins has sued the district for First Amendment violations, with the help of the ACLU, the local teachers union and the National Writers Union.
  • According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the top three challenged books in 2003 were Phyllis Naylor’s Alice series, for sexual content, offensive language and age inappropriateness; the Harry Potter series, for wizardry and magic; and Of Mice and Men, for offensive language.
  • Tom Forsythe, an artist who used images of Barbie for satirical purposes, recovered legal fees in a copyright action by Barbie’s maker. A federal court in California concluded that Mattel, Inc. brought “costly litigation to discourage him from using Barbie’s image in his work.”
  • New and Noteworthy:The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has published a valuable new guide, How to Use the Federal FOI Act, which interprets court rulings, laws and policy changes, and provides step by step help. It’s available at or can be purchased in hard copy for $5.

    The Free Expression Policy Project, which has merged with the Brennan Center for Justice at NY University Law School, has issued The Information Commons—A Public Policy Report, by Nancy Kranich. Click here for more info.