For the second time in two months, CBLDF yesterday joined with other organizational members of the National Coalition Against Censorship’s Kids’ Right to Read Project in sending a letter of protest to a school district that banned Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from the curriculum without following its own challenge policy. This time, the book was removed from 10th grade Honors English at Canfield High School in Canfield, Ohio after two parents complained of “mature content.”
Superintendent Alex Geordan unilaterally pulled the book based on the parents’ complaints about “a page of dialogue that included talk about sex acts, sexual situations and profanity.” That contravened the school district’s own rules, the letter pointed out:
This action is also in direct violation of Canfield Local School District’s own Policy No. 9130, which specifically states that “no challenged material may be removed solely because it presents ideas that may be unpopular or offensive to some.” The policy also requires that any challenge must be addressed to the principal of the school in writing, and he or she may, after advising the superintendent and with his approval, appoint a review committee, which would weigh the challenge against the educational value of the material. Such a review, undertaken by educators at the building or district level, is consistent with recommendations by the National Council of Teachers of English. According to the policy, the final decision to remove a book needs to be made by the board, not singlehandedly by the superintendent.
NCAC also addressed Geordan’s implication that the book was not really banned because it’s still available in the classroom and school libraries:
That the book remains on classroom and school library shelves is irrelevant. The book has been removed from the required reading list solely because of its content and the messages it contains, inevitably robbing students of valuable discussions and placing school officials in the role of censors who privilege the ideas and beliefs of a few parents over the interests of the entire student body.
Just last month, CBLDF also joined NCAC’s protest of a very similar ban on the same book in Mattoon, Illinois. In that case, it was the Mattoon High School principal who pulled the novel from 11th grade Honors English, claiming that “we didn’t really feel like we had a lot of alternatives.” It does not appear, however, that the Mattoon parents who complained were offered the chance to opt their own children out of the assignment or to file a ‘Uniform Grievance,’ both of which are laid out in district policy.
Since district policy says that decisions on challenged books are to be made by the entire school board rather than the superintendent alone, we hope that members will hold Geordan to account and insist on following the proper procedure. Read the entire letter below!