The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is raising serious concerns about a nominee for the North Carolina Board of Education, who once supported an effort to remove a book from a local district’s high school.
In April, Governor Pat McCrory nominated J. Todd Chasteen for a seat on the state Board of Education. Some critics have pointed out that Chasteen — who is a vice president and the chief legal officer at the Christian missionary group Samaritan's Purse – has no experience in public education.
In a June 3 letter to North Carolina lawmakers, NCAC expressed particular concern over Chasteen's role in the 2013 effort to remove Isabel Allende's acclaimed novel The House of the Spirits from the high school honors English curriculum in Watauga County schools.
Although he has no children in the district's public school system, Chasteen aligned himself with pro-censorship advocates. He called The House of the Spirits a "sex book" with "59 sexual references," and claimed that "dysfunctional sexuality" is "the main theme of the book."
Throughout this affair, Mr. Chasteen displayed little or no appreciation for the constitutional obligations of public school officials, who are prohibited from removing educational material because some object to or disapprove of its content. And by rejecting district policy to accommodate differing views by providing student an alternative text, Chasteen endorsed a view that would have public school educators privilege the views of some parents over others.
While Chasteen certainly has a First Amendment right to voice his opinions, the NCAC argues that his disregard for First Amendment principles and principles of academic freedom, and his willingness to impose his worldview upon students throughout the public school system, are incompatible with the Board's mission of preparing students for further education, work, and global citizenship.
As the NCAC letter states, "In short, Mr. Chasteen's appointment to the Board would undermine its credibility as a guarantor of a robust, well-rounded education for all of the state's public school students."
Read the full letter below, or in full screen view.
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