The award-winning and critically acclaimed graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki has been banned from the single K-12 school in the small town of Henning, Minnesota. According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Henning School District has no policy on challenges to library materials, but school administrators agreed with one parent’s opinion that “no child, regardless of age or grade should be able to read the book.”
In a post on OIF’s Intellectual Freedom Blog, Assistant Director Kristin Pekoll detailed “several issues that make this a unique and teachable situation.” First and most obvious, of course, is the absence of any challenge policy whatsoever. According to the district’s informal procedure which was communicated to OIF, complaints about library materials go direct to the principal who makes the final decision without consulting the librarian or even necessarily reading the book in its entirety.
A Henning administrator told Pekoll in a phone conversation that This One Summer had been purchased based on reviews and awards, including ALA’s Caldecott Honor for illustrated books and Printz Honor for Young Adult literature. The Henning representative continued, however, that the book never would have been purchased if they had seen it beforehand because it is inappropriate for children of any age. Pekoll pointed to a slew of reviews and other resources that strongly disagree, including CBLDF’s own article “Adding This One Summer to Your Library or Classroom Collection.”
Finally, Pekoll points out that the arbitrary removal of the book tramples the First Amendment rights of Henning students–and yes, they do have such rights even in school. In a letter sent to the school district on Monday, OIF warned that “decisions to restrict access to materials that are based on the officials’ disagreement with the views expressed in the material, rather than on their educational suitability, could subject the school district to litigation and substantial costs.”
As Pekoll points out, the town of Henning is about 20 miles from the nearest public library. All the more reason for This One Summer to remain in the school library, she says:
These teens rely on the school library collection to meet their reading needs. Even the smallest communities should house a collection of diverse resources for all beliefs and ideologies. While stereotypes abound that small towns only have small minds, I can guarantee you that somewhere in that community are readers who believe in the freedom to read and thinking and choosing for themselves. Unfortunately the superintendent has informed us that he is standing behind the decision to remove the graphic novel for being “pervasively vulgar”. They have taken the choice of what to read out of every student’s and parent’s hands and determined that they know what other should and shouldn’t be allowed to read or think.
CBLDF joins OIF in strongly condemning this outright ban, and we will be following this story closely!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.