A review committee in Pasco County, Florida voted to ban Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower from a middle school yesterday after two parents complained about the book’s references to sex, drugs, and drinking. Pending further district-wide review, the book could be banned from the high school curriculum as well.
The book had been assigned to a 7th grade advanced language arts class by a long-term substitute teacher who had neglected to read it beforehand as required by district policy. But now that it’s been brought to the attention of Superintendent Kurt Browning, he has described it as “inappropriate for any student in the Pasco School system” and recommended that it also be banned from four high schools where classroom sets had been purchased for supplemental reading.
Perks has been frequently challenged over the years, appearing on the American Library Association’s annual list of Top Ten Challenged/Banned Books seven times since 2007. One of the more recent challenges led to a months-long contentious battle in Wallingford, Connecticut, where a parent and school board member filed a challenge after the book was assigned to his son’s high school English class. A review committee voted to retain the book in the curriculum, but the decision was appealed to the superintendent who opted to ban it. Another parent then filed her own request to reinstate it, and the book was ultimately restored to the curriculum.
Pasco County and Superintendent Browning also have a less-than-stellar track record where book challenges are concerned. In 2014 John Green’s Paper Towns was quietly removed from the district’s 8th grade summer reading list without following the challenge policy. After much local and national criticism, Browning claimed that no censorship had taken place and district officials did not think they needed to follow the challenge policy for summer reading assignments.
The review of Perks will now proceed to a district-level review committee, even though the challenge policy says that should only happen if the original complainant is dissatisfied with the school-level decision and opts to appeal it. We will have more on this case as it develops!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.