New York, NY, 5/9/2017- The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and 6 other organizations committed to defending kids’ right to read are urging an Ohio high school to restore student access to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park after the book was removed from a tenth-grade English curriculum following complaints about its “foul language.” The groups argue that the school’s decision unjustifiably removed an educationally valuable work from the curriculum, raising serious First Amendment concerns.
10th grade students at the Vinton County High School in Ohio were assigned Eleanor & Park as required classroom reading. Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is an award-winning young adult novel that is featured widely in English curricula and is critically praised for its deft exploration of themes such as love, race, bullying, body image, and abuse. A parent of a student at Vinton County High School posted an out-of-context image of a passage from the book containing “foul language” on social media and subsequently issued a formal complaint about the book to the school. The school administration responded by cancelling English lessons that used the book, replacing it with a different novel.
The groups’ letter underlines that the hasty removal of the book, after a single complaint, sets a harmful precedent that could leave an entire curriculum in tatters. By responding to complaints in this way, the letter argues, the school administration not only ignores the diversity of opinion in the community but incentivizes parents to issue complaints over materials they personally find disagreeable. The letter stresses that removing pedagogically valuable materials over personal objections to “the ideas (or the language) contained therein” violates First Amendment principles.
The groups request the school formulate a formal book challenge policy and offer to assist the school in formulating the policy.
The letter is signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild and PEN America.
“Without an effective challenge policy the school leaves itself open to public pressure and administrative bias when responding to complaints over curricular materials,” said NCAC’s Free Expression Program Associate Josh Zuckerman. “As always, students will be the ones who suffer by being deprived of materials beneficial to their educational development.”
Read the letter below; click here for a full screen view.