Reprinted from patriciapolacco.com.
For details on Polacco’s allegations and SRA/McGraw Hill’s Response, see School Library Journal.
To All Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists
Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for May 2 and 3, 2006:
A few months, ago I was approached by The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, Ohio, to appear at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago on May 2 and 3, 2006. I was to be part of 5 events: speeches, "meet and greet," and book signings.
I was happy to accept the invitation which, I assumed, was coming from the IRA and my publisher. It is always such an honor for me to speak and interact with teachers and librarians from around the country.
But, then, a very disturbing turn of events transpired. My staff started receiving phone calls and emails from this firm in Ohio requesting that I furnish them with a detailed written outline of what I intended to include in my speeches. I assumed, of course, that this was asked so that a synopsis of my content could be included in a printed brochure furnished to the conferees.
You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called the firm and learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline because their "client" wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about the "No Child Left Behind" mandate … as well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company, which manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country.
It was then that I closely reviewed all of the emails (I had not done so up until this time, because I had been doing school visits and was not home until now). I then realized that the "client" that this firm referred to, but never named, was indeed SRA/McGraw Hill! I also learned from the officials of the IRA that SRA/McGraw Hill was indeed sponsoring the event that I had been invited to. I was shocked!
This "firm" insisted that my speech be "upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political" … I countered with the fact that the plight of American teachers is far from "upbeat" and that they are caught in the vice grip of the most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the American teacher.
I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME and invite me to be a part of their program, knowing how strongly I feel about this entire situation.
My speeches certainly do inspire teachers…. I truly believe they are among the last heroes we have in our country … but I always mention the destructive path that is laying waste to our schools, and that is the No Child Left Behind Mandate! I did mention to them that I considered that this request approached "censorship" and a violation of my freedom of speech.
After receiving numerous emails from this "firm" that got more and more "insistent" … I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my speeches in any way. Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with this, then they could "un-invite" me to be part of their event.
Needless to say, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour! My main concern here is that I very much fear the conferees will be led to believe that it is I who cancelled this event. The cancellation was the choice of SRA/McGraw Hill and was generated by a blatant attempt to CENSOR my remarks and the content of what I say to teachers. Which is a clear infringement of my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I pride myself on being an advocate for America’s teachers as well as being one of the most reliable speakers at conferences in our country.
My lawyers and I have sent a formal request to SRA/McGraw Hill through their representative, The Buchanan Associates, in Dublin, Ohio, to post the following signs outside each venue at the conference where I am scheduled to speak:
DUE TO PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SRA/McGRAW HILL AND PATRICIA POLACCO, SRA/McGRAW HILL HAS CHOSEN TO CANCEL ALL OF PATRICIA POLACCO’S APPEARANCES AT THIS EVENT.
Call anyone you know who was either going to attend my events, or who did and was disappointed, and tell them why this happened.
I am very disturbed by this on many levels. It seems that we Americans are losing, by leaps and bounds, our constitutionally "guaranteed" rights. I am insulted and very offended, not only on my own behalf, but also because of these various organizations that seek to profit from the misery of our teachers and school children. Profits and money seem to matter much more than truly making changes to our educational systems that would truly help our children. I have to admit that I have a certain amount of pride in taking this stand on your behalf.