Over a month ago now, the Glen Ellyn school board voted 4-2 to ban the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower from middle schools in District 41. The district’s ad hoc committee of teachers, parents and administrators read and assessed the book, after the parents of a student filed a formal complaint about the its content. They advised the district to keep the book, which was not required reading but rather was selected as a free reading choice.
(If you’re already thinking “Sign me up!” skip to the bottom for ways to help.)
Now, 6 weeks later, the board (now with some new members) is set to vote on June 10. Students have spoken in front of the board asking to bring the book back. Teachers have asked again and again to reinstate the book; parents have too. Others have expressed support for the ban, calling the book “inappropriate.” In a board meeting last week, two board members cautioned against the slippery slope of censorship and against micromanaging teachers.
Today, this action alert came out from Illinois Family Institute. We’re wondering now if they weren’t behind it the entire time.
The teachers have prepared new letters to send home that will advise parents to check in with their children about free read and to let teachers know if they have an issues with their selections, so they can choose other texts. In their minds, they also want to preserve student choice and students constitutional rights as well as be respected for their professional expertise.
One board member denigrated the letter saying it used “pretty library language.” He feels there should be a more specific definition of what is “mature content” and “sexual content” and “inappropriate content,” evidently unaware that choice is offered because defining such terms is difficult, and doing so would require arbitrary and subjective judgments.
The new system, which requires parents read and sign a slip to indicate they’ve read and understood the mailing, isn’t good enough for the new board president, Sam Black, who has stated he would vote again to ban the book. Need I point out that none of the board members are themselves teachers or have any pedagogical experience? They are bankers, real estate agents, former lawyers.
We and other free speech and civil rights organizations are composing a second letter (we already sent one letter on behalf of Kids’ Right to Read) and are encouraging Glen Ellyn residents to speak up for the rights of these students to choose either way what they wish to read and learn.
To be clear, we support those who speak their minds on both sides of this issue. Those who wish the ban are certainly free to speak their minds. However, at the heart of this issue is the fact that by banning this book, they have removed choice from other parents and students who also have a right to choose what they will and will not read based on their individual values and the pedagogical worth of the text.
This text is important, it saves lives and there has been no educationally sound reason to remove it.
Sign the petition and state your support of the Freedom to Read. Share this post or the petition with your Facebook and twitter feeds. Send an e-mail expressing your support in 2-3 sentences to the board members of Glen Ellyn District 41:
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
The last way you can help combat censorship issues like this one is to support Kids’ Right to Read with a donation, however big or small, to NCAC.