UPDATE 5/23/2017: Read NCAC's letter.
A Florida elementary school is pursuing an unusual policy for students interested in reading the popular but controversial book 13 Reasons Why. The school district does not carry the book in its classrooms or libraries and no parental complaints have been lodged against it. The elementary school, however, has taken an extra precaution and banned students from bringing their own copies into school. Although the elementary school has valid reasons to believe the book, which is rated mature-teen, is inappropriate for some of its students, the decision to forbid students from reading personal copies raises First Amendment concerns.
In a message sent to parents, Florida's Stone Lakes elementary school's principal Bryan Dolfi announced that the book was banned from campus because of the books “somewhat graphic nature [and] frequent use of profanity, alcohol, and sexually explicit material.”
Although the Stone Lakes elementary school did not explicitly reference the themes of the book, in schools across the country, there is growing concern around 13 Reasons Why, prompted by a Netflix adaptation about the show that has drawn controversy for its allegedly romanticizing approach to the delicate issue of youth suicide. For example, in Colorado, a school district briefly pulled the book from circulation in its libraries citing concerns about the books themes. Administrators in many other schools, from New York to California, have also issued warnings to parents about the book.
The letter will underline that the ban "[infringes] upon students’ First Amendment right to receive and possess literature unless the books in question are likely to cause the disruption of school activities." There is no evidence that the book would any way disrupt the educational process
The letter will also express concern about the district's reliance on the "mature teen" label as a signifier for books that are inappropriate for younger readers. Not every book will be suitable for every reader, but some mature-teen books will be suitable and of educational benefit to some young readers.