National Coalition Against Censorship

Contact: Peter Hart

212.807.6222 // c: 732.266.4932 // peter@ncac.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

First Amendment Groups Say No to Proposed Book Rating Policy in Appoquinimink

NEW YORK, January 12, 2015 — The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is urging Delaware’s Appoquinimink School District against adopting potentially restrictive book assignment and checkout policy.

The district’s new system proposes to employ letter ratings to flag books for “adult,” “excessively violent” or “sexual” content. As a January 9 letter from the Coalition to the district explains: “The underlying assumption that parents should be concerned about this kind of material reflects a particular set of views and values that cannot be supported on pedagogical grounds and that are not embraced by many parents.”

The possible change in policy is the result of a complaint from one parent who was outraged when his son brought home Identical by Ellen Hopkins. The book, which the student was reading in his school’s literature circle, deals with sensitive themes of sexual abuse.

Co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (which has also sent its own letter to the district), the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, PEN American Center, the National Council of Teachers of English, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the letter comes in advance of the District’s January 13 meeting.

The signatories also take issue with the proposal from a Constitutional perspective. “Targeting literary works based on their ideas or content also violates a fundamental First Amendment principle,” explains NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin in the letter, citing numerous court precedents that prohibit school officials from suppressing disagreeable materials.

The letter also points out that these very educational and constitutional principles are enshrined in the district’s own policies, which recognize that “academic freedom is essential to the goals and objectives” of the educational system.

The signatories hope that the district will rely on the professional judgment of educators to freely select material that will serve the students’ interests and needs most appropriately.

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The National Coalition Against Censorship promotes freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression and opposes censorship in all its forms. NCAC’s diverse coalition of more than 50 national organizations, representing the artistic, educational, religious, and labor communities, join together in the interest of protecting First Amendment rights. Learn more about current campaigns at pair.ncac.org.