NCAC has written to Lake Travis Independent School District in Austin, Texas, regarding reports that Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez was removed from school libraries after some community members objected to some of its content. The novel depicts an interracial love story in 1930s Texas, up to the 1937 New London School explosion. NCAC’s letter of concern is co-signed by The Authors’ Guild, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
A news reports cites a district spokesperson as stating that the book has been removed before the reconsideration process has even begun, despite the fact that District Policy EF (Local) explicitly states: “Access to a challenged resource shall not be restricted during the reconsideration process, except the District may deny access to a child, if requested by the child’s parent.”
While it is true that the District is ultimately entitled to determine what materials are used in its classrooms, it is also true that there is a constant risk that such decisions might be influenced by improper factors, such as political considerations or hostility to the viewpoints expressed in curricular materials. That is presumably why the District has promulgated very specific policies and regulations governing the selection of materials as well as the adjudication of challenges to those materials.
Thus, it appears that the district has ignored its regulations by removing the book from the school libraries. Removing a book without following administrative regulations is not only illegal, it also raises serious pedagogical concerns. Teachers who fear that books might summarily be removed whenever someone brings a challenge will be reluctant to assign any but the most innocuous and unchallenging books, and hence likely to chill their willingness to select books that they believe best serve students’ needs.
NCAC and its cosigners urge the District to return Out of Darkness to the library shelves until the challenge has been adjudicated, and to clarify to all teachers, administrators and staff that administrative regulations must be followed when challenges are brought to curricular materials.
Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: