Update: Victory for KRRP! The Appoquinimink School District has chosen not to implement new rules that would have allowed parents to sign forms barring their children from reading anything deemed too “mature.” KRRP sent a letter to the school board after some teachers complained the changes amounted to censorship and violated students’ First Amendment rights.
At the end of the last school year, one parent was outraged when his son, a student in Delaware’s Appoquinimink School District, 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.
Outrage turned into action last month when the district found itself contemplating potentially restrictive book adoption and checkout policies that would red flag the books, using vague barometers for determining what is and isn’t “inappropriate” content. In a letter sent to the district today, NCAC and its partners urged 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 the letter states, “[t]he 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.”
Co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, 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 upcoming 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, 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 within 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.