The fate of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner in the Buncombe County, North Carolina, school system has finally been decided: By unanimous vote, the school board has decided to keep the book in 10th grade English classrooms.
The Kite Runner was challenged earlier this year by parent Lisa Baldwin, who objected to depictions of “homosexuality and sexually explicit scenes.” A school-level review committee decided in May that the book was appropriate for the Honors English class, especially since teacher Brooke Bowman gave students the option to skip the potentially disturbing rape scene or to choose an alternate reading assignment, All Quiet on the Western Front. Baldwin appealed the first review committee’s decision to a district-wide review committee, which also unanimously recommended that the school board reinstate Hosseini’s novel. In her appeal to the district review committee, Baldwin added another objection to the book, saying that it “inaccurately assign[s] Judeo-Christian characteristics to a Muslim god.”
The review committees’ decisions were forwarded to the county school board, the final arbiter of the challenge. The final vote by the school board was initially scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening, but Baldwin — who is a former school board member — demanded it be delayed because Tuesday’s meeting time had been changed but a notice of the change had not been physically posted. Despite Baldwin’s procedural quibble, today’s meeting resulted in a unanimous vote in support of the novel. The school board’s decision is final, so Baldwin cannot appeal her demand for the book’s removal any further.
Because of district policy, The Kite Runner could not be used in classrooms until the challenge was fully resolved. The entire class read All Quiet on the Western Front instead. CBLDF joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project in sending two letters to Bruncombe County, both of which defended the book and voiced concerns about the district’s policy to pull books from classrooms during challenges:
A complainant should not be able to disrupt an entire classroom while the complaint is being considered or the material in question is being reviewed. Doing so compromises the rights of the students and the integrity of the system. The suspension of the book in this case, due to the unit’s proximity to the end of the school year, meant that it was effectively and permanently removed from the 2014-2015 A.C. Reynolds High School’s English II Honors class.
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.
You can read the letters CBLDF signed here and here. While the district should review how it handles challenges, the unanimous vote of both review committees and the school board in support of The Kite Runner represent a resounding victory for the freedom to read!
CBLDF Contributing Editor Maren Williams contributed to this article.