Students Protest Draconian Classroom Library Policy in Pennsylvania

January 30, 2014

Updated-CBLDF-Bone-Email-264x300Recently, CBLDF joined a Kids’ Right to Read Project-led coalition protesting a proposed policy in the Muhlenberg School District in Pennsylvania that would require teachers to read every book in their classrooms and label or remove mature, sexual, violent or religiously offensive content. Apparently we weren’t the only one concerned by the policy — students in the district started a petition to stop the policy.

The policy arose after teachers in the district returned from an educational conference. KRRP explains in a letter sent to the Muhlenberg School Board:

As we understand it, this issue arose after teachers returned from a recent National Council of Teachers of English conference with new books to add to their classroom libraries. One teacher was barred from distributing these books until they were read by the assistant superintendent and rated, while another teacher was able to freely distribute the new books to eager students. When the incongruity became known, the policy was expanded to include other teachers, who were instructed to identify all new books in their classroom libraries containing racial, ethnic, or religious content that might be considered “insensitive” or ”offensive,” and books containing violence or sexual content

The students behind the petition described why they’re taking action, expressing dissatisfaction with a policy that would limit their freedom to read:

I’ll tell you right now that we’re angry. We’re angry because they think that we can’t handle reading young adult literature, most of which contains real world issues that people go through everyday. We’re angry that they’re trying to blind us and prevent us from learning about it. We’re angry that they think they can handicap our education. They can’t tell us to act like adults and go off doing this like we’re still a bunch of middle schoolers. We refuse to be idle.

Students have increasingly become active and key players in fighting censorship. In 2013, students helped protect Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis when Chicago Public Schools tried to ban the acclaimed graphic novel. Students also helped protect Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Stephen King’s Different Seasons in Rocklin, California.

As of this writing, the petition is only about 90 signature short of its 2,500 signature goal. You can view and sign the petition here.

We need your help to keep fighting for the right to read in 2014! Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!