CBLDF has joined a coalition led by Kids’ Right to Read Project to protest the removal of Amityville: Jr. Graphic Ghost Stories from the Lake Myra Elementary School library in Knightdale, North Carolina. Despite violating school policy, the book was pulled from the Wake County school library earlier this month after a parent complained to school officials about the book’s subject matter.
Amityville is part of a series of graphic novels that retell famous ghost stories for young readers in grades 3-6. Intended to appeal to reluctant readers, the graphic novel recounts the infamous story of the Amityville Horror House and includes a brief context of the legend as well as summaries of other similar stories from around the world.
Despite the fact that the book is designed specifically for young readers and meant to engage struggling readers, parent Kay Walker confronted Lake Myra school officials after her son checked out the book and insisted that the book not only be pulled from the Lake Myra school library, but from the Wake County school district as a whole, citing its “inappropriate” subject matter. “It was talking about a man who murders his family and shows a man walking with his shotgun going to his parents and his sister and brother,” said Walker. “I couldn’t imagine a teacher pulling this book off the library and sitting in front of her kindergarten or first grade class reading it to them.”
Upon issuing her complaint, Walker was notified that the book had already been pulled from the library — an action that is in direct violation of the school district’s policy on handling challenged materials which requires a book be reviewed by a committee prior to its removal. As noted in policy 5410.4, “the challenged material will continue to be used until the consideration process is completed; however, the use of the material(s) for that particular student shall be suspended, if requested by the parent(s).”
In the letter, KRRP reminds Wake County school officials that the removal of Amityville from the school library without following proper procedure “is not only constitutionally suspect, but would also leave school officials vulnerable to multiple, possibly conflicting demands” in the future. KRRP adds:
No student has to read a book simply because it is on the library shelf. The library exists to allow students to have a wealth of reading options, consistent with their interests, maturity level, and parental guidance. As the Supreme Court has emphasized, unlike “the compulsory environment of the classroom,” in the school library “the regime of voluntary inquiry…holds sway.” Pico, 457 U.S. at 869.
The task of selecting school library materials properly belongs to professional librarians and educators. Parents may be equipped to make choices for their own children; but, no matter how well-intentioned, they simply cannot make such decisions for others. Some parents may prefer to keep their children from reading ghost stories like Amityville. Others may appreciate a book like Amityville because it may help develop a lifelong love of reading.
The entirety of the letter follows.