Censorship in Public Schools

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Censorship in Public Schools

By | October 1999
Page 1 of 5
Censorship in Public Schools

-A principal in a California high school bans five books written by Richard Brautigan because he thinks they might contain "obscenities or offensive sexual references" (Berger 59).

-A Vermont high school librarian is forced to resign because she fought the school board's decision to remove Richard Price's The Wanderers, and to "restrict" the use of Stephen King's Carrie and Patrick Mann's Dog Day Afternoon (Jones 33).

-An Indiana school board takes action that leads to the burning of many copies of a textbook that deals with drugs and the sexual behavior of teenagers (Berger 61).

These cases of censorship in public schools are not unusual and there is evidence that such challenges are increasing (Woods 2). These challenges are actually typical of the ones being leveled against school libraries today. These challenges can come from one person or a group concerned with the suitability of the material in question. In almost every case, the effort to ban books is said to be "justified by fear of the harmful effects that the books may have on young children" (Berger 59). The result of these censorship attempts has been two opposing sides: one side believes that "more suitable materials can usually be found from among the wealth of materials available on most subjects (Woods 1), and the other side believes that students' "intellectual freedom" can be upheld only if students are allowed to examine "any available relevant materials in order to gain the insights needed to reach their own conclusions" (Woods 1). In the simplest terms, the debate is between censorship and the freedom to read.

The most important question when discussing censorship deals with its constitutionality; does censorship violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech? Censorship advocates actually use the words of the First Amendment to make their point; "the amendment reads, 'Congress shall make no law...", it does not say, "There shall be no...