Censorship is detrimental to students’ rights

For years, Alabama resident Laura Mallory campaigned against the wildly successful Harry Potter books, claiming them to be “dangerous and deceptive” and blaming them for “mainstreaming witchcraft [for children]”.

Mallory challenged the books? placement in school libraries and appealed multiple times in effort to have the Potter series banned from her local schools. However, Mallory no longer had any children in public schools by the time she was making her most recent appeals.

Mallory?s campaign is not unique, but ones like it are rarities in Fairfax County. Though on the school level, books have been restricted or banned, no county-wide bannings have occurred, at least as of 1983, when records of challenges were first kept.

This overall lack of bannings has not really deterred people from attempting to remove them from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). In 2006, a challenge was brought to the FCPS school board against Of Mice and Men; in 2007, Plastic Man: On the Lam was challenged. In 2009, Lauren Myracle?s instant messaging-style teen novel, TTYL, the first in the three-part series, was challenged.

Though book challenges and bannings are minimal in Fairfax County, they still exist, especially on a school level. Parents have the option, according to school board regulation, to challenge material in school based on how “suitable” they find them or how they “perceive students would be affected by exposure to [the] material.” However, it is the teacher?s, not the parent?s, job to determine what material is suitable for a learning environment.

Book banning is not a material issue; it is one of free speech. It does not matter how anti-religious or vulgar or inappropriate you, or your parents, might find it to be. If the book is against your religion, do not read it. If you disagree vehemently with the opinions presented in the book to the point that you find the book offensive, do not read it. If you feel that the book is inappropriate for a school setting, do not read it, because that is not your call to make.

It is not alright for other people?s parents to implement their views on what is school-appropriate on students who may not share the same views. Appropriate school reading material is an issue that should be left up to the best judgment of the student, his or her parents, and the school library.

Unless the text is factually incorrect material presented to students as truth, it is not the job of the parents to regulate books in school libraries and classrooms. Parents need to trust that teachers will not be having their second graders read Huckleberry Finn.

Books that are educationally beneficial yet controversial, like 1984, a commonly challenged novel by George Orwell that has the potential to offer students a new take on the Cold War, should not be removed from classrooms because parents are upset by its material.

Sometimes the books parents are most ardently set against are the ones that offer the most learning opportunities, especially for young students. Books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, which is heavy in racial epithets that seem inappropriate today, can give Elementary School students real perspective on the environment during the 1960s. Children can handle a surprising amount of mature content when learning about history. By saying books like this are too much for students to handle, parents are selling their children short.

While it may be completely inappropriate for fourth graders to read a book heavy in reference to sex and drugs, it is not the responsibility of an unrelated to decide that. There is a fine line between educational and inappropriate. However, books that use strong language but are period-accurate are not unreasonable. For older students, books with some drug references that offer context are not inappropriate.

Although parents should have input in the learning process and should be involved their child?s education, it is important they do not smother their students to the point of impacting others? learning. Parents who advocate the banning of books are infringing on the rights of the student body as a whole. Just because one person feels the material is inappropriate in a school setting does not mean that others cannot derive educational value from it.