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California School District Considers Classic Book Ban

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Tika Viteri

Staff Writer

Tika writes from her home office in Pittsburgh, PA, accompanied by 3 grey cats and many, many plants. When not plonking away on a keyboard, she can be found painting, knitting, gardening, and casting the occasional spell or two -- all usually accompanied by a glass of wine.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has issued a letter to the Burbank School District in Burbank, California, regarding the district’s proposed censorship of several American classics.

Books are introduced and removed from school curricula on a regular basis. However, certain texts are perennial in American classrooms, among them The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; The Cay, and To Kill A Mockingbird. As the NCAC states, there are problematic and challenging themes in many (if not all) books considered “classic texts.” Curricula have been developed to put these themes into context and to provide students with more perspective and compassion, with the goal of teaching the lessons of the past so that our present and future can be more equitable.

The Burbank School District’s policy states that if a book is challenged, it should remain in the curriculum until a decision is reached. Parents who have issued the challenge are allowed to ask for alternatives for their own children. However, the district has apparently violated policy by instructing teachers to stop teaching challenged books while those challenges are assessed.

The NCAC’s letter strongly urges the district to return the challenged books to the classroom until a decision has been reached on the overall challenge, stating that “It’s important to remember that, while parents can opt their students out of reading these books, students who are prevented from reading classic texts with the benefit of guided analysis by professional educators can never opt in.”

For further reading, Book Riot’s Nancy Snyder provides an analysis of The Logic Behind Banning Books.