CBLDF Joins Coalition Opposing Restrictive Book Policies in Delaware

January 9, 2015
By
Identical by Ellen Hopkins

CBLDF has joined a coalition led by CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project in objecting to restrictive book policies proposed to Delaware’s Appoquinimink School Board. The policies would red flag books based on vague standards for what is or is not appropriate for students in the system.

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.

The proposed policies resulted from a parental challenge to Ellen Hopkins’ novel Identical. The parent complained that his son felt uncomfortable reading Identical, which deals with sexual abuse, in a voluntary extracurricular high school book club with mostly female members and coordinated by a female librarian. The book was not required reading, and the student could have elected to not participate, but the parent “began circulating a petition to require the school district to adopt a process for ensuring that all material was age appropriate.” In response, a rating system was proposed, requiring the labeling of books that contained “excessive” violence, offensive language, adult content, and sexual content.

KRRP’s letter describes the major concern over the proposed labels:

Of primary concern is the proposed adoption of a “rating” system, under which certain books would be flagged for special attention and parental consent requirements. The very premise of the proposal, that “mature/explicit” materials are automatically cause for concern, is flawed, as is the underlying assumption that literature containing certain kinds of content (designated by the labels V = excessive violence, L =offensive language, AC = Adult content, and S = sexual content) is intrinsically suspect and should be subject to special rules. The policy reflects specific views and values that are not shared by all, are unrelated to educational considerations, and therefore cannot be supported on pedagogical grounds. Instructional materials are selected for a number of reasons, including but not limited to their suitability to a given course of study, their literary or educational merit, and their ability to connect instruction to human experience in a broader sense; however, the teaching of educationally valuable material should not be discouraged merely because of the presence of isolated words or scenes that some may consider objectionable

The policy will be discussed during the school district’s January 13 meeting, and CBLDF will provide updates as they become available. We join KRRP in hoping “that the district will rely on the professional judgment of educators to freely select material that will serve the students’ interests and needs most appropriately.”

KRRP’s letter follows in its entirety.

Appoquinimink School District_NCAC

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