When classes resume next month at New Mexico’s Rio Rancho High School, the acclaimed graphic novel Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez will be back on shelves in the library–but students under 18 will need a parent’s signature to check it out.
This story first broke back in February with a heavily biased news report from Albuquerque-area TV station KOAT, which unquestioningly labeled the critically-acclaimed comic “sexual, graphic, and not suitable for children.” Catrenna Lopez, the mother of a Rio Rancho High School freshman, said she wanted the book off school library shelves because it contained “child pornography pictures and child abuse pictures.” The KOAT report showed the library copy stuffed with sticky-note flags that Lopez had used to mark all the pages she found objectionable, but the reporter provocatively told viewers that “we can’t show you any of the images because they’re too sexual and very graphic.” In a new report this week on the book’s return to the school, KOAT persisted in calling it a “racy comic.”
Although Palomar will technically be back in the RRHS library, the parental signature requirement still sets up an access barrier for the vast majority of students based on one parent’s complaint. The special treatment for one book–apparently an administrative decision rather than a recommendation of the review committee–violates the spirit of Rio Rancho Public Schools’ Library Bill of Rights and its challenge policy which says book challenges are to be treated “objectively, unemotionally, and as a routine matter.” Palomar has already been judged appropriate for the high school collection, and that means all students should have unrestricted access to it.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.