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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Anti-censorship group urges return of John Green novel to Pasco school reading list

The quick removal of hot author John Green's Paper Towns from John Long Middle School's eighth-grade summer reading list after a parent's complaint has prompted a swift call for the novel's immediate reinstatement by a national anti-censorship group.

The National Coalition Against Censorship Kids' Right to Read Project sent a letter Monday to superintendent Kurt Browning, arguing that the district should not allow a single person's concerns to cause a book to be eliminated from an assignment — particularly when the district did not follow its own challenge procedures (see Policy 2520). It also questioned the constitutionality of such an action:

"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); see also Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School (1982). ... Every community is home to a diversity of opinions on moral and religious questions. For every  parent who objects to an assigned book there will be others who favor it. In practice, the attempt to  alter school curricula in response to individual objections means privileging the moral or religious  beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by  government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent.

The school district has not banned the book, which remains in several libraries. It has not taken further action on the John Long Middle summer reading list, which also includes Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Read the full letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship here. What's your take on this situation?

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 8:41am]


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