Issue 84, Winter 2001/2002

  • The outpouring of emotion since September 11th is taking a toll on free expression, in what many describe as the “new McCarthyism.” In the middle of her commencement speech at California State University, Janis Besler Heaphy, president and publisher of the Sacramento Bee, was hooted down for urging graduates to safeguard their rights to free speech and fair trials, and guard against unlawful detentions and racial profiling. Heaphy was forced off the stage by an angry crowd before she could finish. In Cleveland, Ohio, 16-year old Aaron Petitt was suspended from Fairfax High School for 10 days for posting signs on his locker that depicted planes bombing Afghanistan. A federal district court judge overturned the suspension after Aaron and his parents sued the school district for violating his First Amendment and due process rights. School administrators had claimed that Aaron’s locker signs would “offend Arab-American students.” For additional censorship incidents related to the events of 9-11, click here.
  • In Elgin, Illinois, school librarians appealing to reinstate Judy Blume’s novel Forever, have won a first round—a special faculty and parent committee voted unanimously to lift the ban. The popular, frequently challenged book about a teenager’s first love affair was removed from middle school libraries in 1997 when a parent (who home-schools her children) claimed that Forever did not meet “our community standards.” An appeal is pending. NCAC is urging the school board to return the novel to the library. Click here to read our letter to the board. Click here to read our press release.
  • In California, the highly acclaimed novel, Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron was removed from La Mirada High School library by the principal, after a parent’s complaint about isolated sexual references. As NCAC often observes, it is fine literature that is most frequently censored: Sophie’s Choice has won the prestigious National Book Award. NCAC and other groups are urging school officials to honor students’ First Amendment rights by returning the book to the library shelves.
  • Prayer in public schools in Louisiana, has been ruled illegal by a federal district court. In spite of the Supreme Court decision of 1962, which found organized prayers in public schools unconstitutional, the Louisiana legislature passed a law in 1999 requiring schools to permit prayer or meditation. In December, the federal district court found the law wholly religious in nature and therefore unconstitutional. The state is planning to appeal.
  • Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico was the site of a bonfire of Harry Potter books, works by Shakespeare, and other “masterpieces of Satanic deception.”
  • A group of media scholars has asked the American Academy of Pediatrics to reconsider its claim that studies have shown media violence causes violent behavior. In a letter prepared by NCAC’s Free Expression Policy Project, the scholars say that the AAP’s Policy on Media Violence contains inaccuracies and distortions. For the full statement, click here.