Friday, February 19, 2010

Kudos to Monroe County School District, FL

Kudos to the Monroe County School District in the Florida keys! They have a censorship attempt on their hands, and it's too early to tell how it will turn out (I might take back my kudos later). But so far school administrators have had the presence of mind not to overreact. The challenged book is still in the library, and seems likely to stay there, at least until after they've gone through the formal review process. The administrators who removed the dictionary from classrooms in California, and those who (at least temporarily) dropped the definitive edition of Diary of a Young Girl in Virgina, would do well to study how a professional school districts handles book challenges.

The object of parental wrath in the Monroe County School District is Judy Blume's young adult novel Forever, which is not part of any classroom curricula, but is available in the school library. Published in 1975, the book does contain descriptions of sexual activity. The characters in the book act responsibly, discussing their options and planning birth control, and perhaps it is this more than anything else that most offends the parents of young readers. The National Coalition Against Censorship reports on their blog that some parents complained that the book contains “a distorted view of sex, promiscuity, [and is] usurping parental control.” reports that one parent's complaint was that a student read parts of the book out loud on the bus, although it is far from clear what that has to do with the school library.

The results of the school's review of the book have yet to be announced. The NCAC has sent a letter asking the principal to resist the attempted censorship.  Ironically, author Judy Blume lives in Florida near the affected school district. A frequently challenged author, Ms. Blume's Website has several pages dedicated to identifying and resisting censorship. The American Library Association's web page on frequently challenged authors says "Five of Judy Blume’s books are on the list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 to 1999: Forever (7), Blubber (30), Deenie (42), Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (60), and Tiger Eyes (89)."

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