Last night the school board in Riverside, California voted 3-2 to restore John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to middle school libraries, after it had been banned by a staff review committee in September. CBLDF and other members of the National Coalition Against Censorship had reminded the board and district administrators of the constitutional issues at stake in two letters, the most recent sent just yesterday.
Some board members were taken by surprise that the review committee could so easily remove a book. The review was undertaken after one parent complained that the book’s “subject matter involves teens dying of cancer who use crude language and have sex.” Board member Tom Hunt, one of those who voted to uphold the ban last night, read the brief sex scene out loud at the meeting but said that wasn’t why he supported the ban. Instead, Hunt said the book is “not appropriate for middle school” because it is about “two young people who are facing death.”
But board president Kathy Allavie, who voted with the majority to restore the book to libraries, questioned “what world the [review] committee feels middle school students inhabit in which classmates don’t have cancer.” Another board member, Patricia Lock-Dawson, said that “what it comes down to is the question of what is Constitutional is unequivocal.”
Kudos to the board members who recognized that students have a right to read and explore real-life issues that may make some adults uncomfortable! As always, parents can judge whether their own children are ready to read a particular book from the school library, but that control should never extend to all students.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.