CBLDF has joined a coalition led by the National Coalition Against Censorship urging Marion County, Kentucky, high school principal Mike Abbell to keep John Green’s Looking for Alaska as part of the 12th grade English curriculum despite one parent’s complaint that the award-winning YA novel is “pornography” and “filth.”
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.
Earlier this month, high school teacher Emily Veatch at Marion County High School was publically attacked for teaching Green’s books in a 12th grade English class. Called “godless,” “shameful,” and “untrustworthy,” upset members of the community called for Veatch to be fired. Moreover, parental complaints about the books content led the school to temporarily pull the title from the school’s curriculum. It also underwent review by the Reconsideration Committee to see if it should also be pulled from the school’s library.
“The complainant has put forth no legitimate rationale for the book’s removal, and it is highly doubtful that one could be advanced, particularly given the fact that Looking for Alaska is the recipient of numerous honors,” writes the NCAC in their letter to Principal Abbell, adding:
Removing such a book from the curriculum in spite of its clearly recognized value, and in response to highly subjective complaints about its content, would raise serious constitutional concerns. While a parent is free to voice complaints and request that their child be offered an alternative reading, government officials, including public school administrators, may not prohibit “the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson (1989).
As the letter points out, parents have a right to share their concerns about the materials their children are reading in schools, but not at the compromise of all other students’ educations. “The views of those who object to the book are not shared by all, and removing it from the curriculum and possibly from the library as well would violate the rights of parents who want their children to read Looking for Alaska.”
In light of an admission from the complaining party that they may have taken passages from the book out of context — unjustly calling the whole text “pornography” and “filth… not suitable for any ages” — we ask Principal Abbell and the Reconsideration Committee to restore Looking for Alaska to the high school curriculum in order to maintain the integrity and constitutionality of the school’s educational mission.
NCAC’s letter to Principal Abbell and the Reconsideration Committee follows in its entirety.