The National Coalition Against Censorship is urging the Board of Education in Hudson, Ohio, to return Jonathan Evison’s book, Lawn Boy, to school libraries. The book, which won the American Library Association’s Alex Award in 2019 as one of the top ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, was removed following objections by some community members to some of its content.
Removing a book without following administrative regulations not only violates the First Amendment, it also raises serious pedagogical concerns. It greatly burdens teachers, and is likely to chill their ability to select books that they believe best serve students’ needs.
While not every book is right for every young reader, the role of school libraries is to allow students and parents to make choices according to their own interests, experiences, and family values. However, no parent, student or community member may impose their views, values and interests on others by restricting an entire community’s access to particular books.
The Supreme Court has established that public school officials’ discretion regarding the removal of library books is particularly limited to ensure the protection of students’ First Amendment right to access information because “students must always remain free to inquire, to study, and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding” and “the school library is the principal locus of such freedom.” Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 868-69 (1982).
In the same case, the Court also cautioned, “[l]ocal school boards may not remove books from library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’” Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 872 (1982). Thus, the removal of books from public school libraries to suppress ideas is a violation of the First Amendment.
It appears that, in the case of Lawn Boy, the district has ignored its own review policies, which stipulate that the Superintendent may not remove a challenged book until a review committee has been convened and has issued a recommendation.
NCAC and its co-signors, the Authors Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, ask that the District return Lawn Boy to the library pending the outcome of the challenge to the book, and to clarify to all teachers, administrators and staff that administrative regulations must be followed when challenges are brought to learning materials.
Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: