With a recent 5-1 board vote rejecting a parent’s request to have the children’s book Emma and Meesha My Boy: A Two Mom Story removed from classrooms, the Superior, Wisconsin, School District has taken a strong stance against censorship — a stance that will hopefully inspire other schools and districts to not succumb to book challenges.
Late last year, the Superior School District was presented with a parental complaint over the story of a young girl with two mothers in Emma and Meesha My Boy: A Two Mom Story by Kaitlyn Considine. A parent was upset that the book would potentially be read to kindergarteners, the book was put before the board for review in early January. After thoroughly going through the book page by page, it was determined in a 5-1 vote that the book posed no potential harm and, as such, would not be removed from classroom shelves.
Unlike so many other cases in which challenged books have simply been pulled from classrooms, redacted from curricula, or incited policy changes that require parental consent to read “questionable” material, what was it about the Superior School District that led to their decision to keep a book on shelves although it garnered complaint? The answer is simply that Superior has a line written into their school policy that states, “No challenged material may be removed solely because it presents ideas that may be unpopular or offensive to some.”
Progressive? Brave? Or just common sense? It is this type of policy which not only safeguards teachers and classrooms from unnecessary backlash for teaching books that may present potentially sensitive or controversial content, like Emma and Meesha My Boy, but it also protects every student’s fundamental right to an uncensored and unregulated education — an education that includes covering materials that encourage discussion, debate, and critical thought. As Elias Radtke of the Badger Herald writes:
Books are an art form, and one of the finest forms in many a humble opinion. Often censorship is seen as a way to prevent the population from saturating their brains with things that often could be considered controversial to the powers that be… Agreement is not a prerequisite for consumption of literature.
Most importantly, unanimous, biased agreement is not a prerequisite for certain books to be removed from classrooms. The recent decision made by the Superior School Board proves that when complaints arise, schools don’t need to back down and try to appease the voice that shouts the loudest. Rather, when such complaints arise, schools should calmly review the materials, determine its relevancy to the curriculum, and judge the content on how it will enrich students’ educations, not how it will make people uncomfortable.
Education is designed to teach students about their world — all aspects of it — and regulating the materials that students have access to is an immense disservice students and their immediate communities. We hop that more districts follow Superior’s example and promote a fuller, uncensored educational environment.
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!