Following up on the September removal of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars from middle schools in Riverside, California, CBLDF again today joins a coalition of free speech and publishing organizations in urging the school board to reconsider the ban. A letter on behalf of the CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project at the National Coalition Against Censorship was sent to the board in advance of its meeting tonight.
CBLDF joins coalition efforts like these to protect the freedom to read comics. Censorship manifests in many ways, and the unique visual nature of comics makes them more prone to censorship than other types of books. Taking an active stand against all instances of censorship curbs precedent that could adversely affect the rights upon which comics readers depend.
Some Riverside school board members were surprised to learn in September that a book could be banned without any board oversight whatsoever; Green’s popular novel was removed following a 6-1 vote of a review committee made up of district teachers and administrators. In October at least one board member admitted that the policy regarding review of challenged materials was unclear and may need to be updated. Tonight the board plans to review the ban and consider reinstating the four copies of the book that were removed.
As we stated earlier, removing a book from the library because some people object to it undermines important educational principles and raises constitutional questions. The Fault in Our Stars deals with issues that concern many young adults, and depriving students of the basic right to read based on questionable notions of age-appropriateness disregards the book’s literary merit and appeal to readers. Our courts have continually ruled that school officials have a constitutional obligation not to suppress material because some find it objectionable or offensive.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.