Magazine article Church & State

Missouri School District May Reconsider Vonnegut Book Ban after Protests

Magazine article Church & State

Missouri School District May Reconsider Vonnegut Book Ban after Protests

Article excerpt

After objections from anti-censorship forces, officials at a Missouri school district say they will reconsider a plan to remove two books from the curriculum.

In July, members of the Republic School Board voted 4-0 to omit Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and a second volume, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, after a local resident argued that the tomes are contrary to the Bible. The story gained national attention, and the board's action was widely criticized.

On Aug. 18, Americans United for Separation of Church and State joined the National Coalition Against Censorship and seven other organizations in a joint letter urging the school superintendent and school board members to reconsider their decision.

"We urge you to provide students with an education that exposes them to challenging materials and diverse ideas and beliefs, that prepares them to make their own judgments, and that teaches them to respect the opinions of others," the letter asserted. "That is at the core of our system."

The letter pointed out that only one of the four voting board members had even read Slaughterhouse-Five, noting that one complaint should not provide the basis for censorship. (The resident who raised the issue, Wesley Scroggins, does not send his children to the local public schools.)

The coalition letter urged the board to consider the fact that Vonnegut's book has been recognized for its significant literary and artistic merit, ranking No. 18 on the Modern Library's list of top 100 novels.

"Focusing on the literary and pedagogical value of library and curricular materials is the best way to serve your students, resolve disputes over values and preferences, and protect the district from legal liability," the letter asserted. "Please return the books to the classrooms and library shelves where they belong."

Signers of the letter include: Joan Bertin, executive director, National Coalition Against Censorship; Judith Pilatt, director, Free Expression Advocacy Association of American Publishers; Lin Oliver, executive director, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators; Chris Finan, president, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; Larry Siems, director, Freedom to Write & International Programs, PEN American Center; Millie Davis, division director, National Council of Teachers of English; Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director, ACLU of Kansas and Western Misouri; and Alex Koroknay-Palicz, executive director, National Youth Rights Association. …

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