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Book Banning Debate Takes Shape at Missouri Public School

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The debate over banning certain books from public school libraries is not new. Advocates say that banning certain books removes from the curriculum vulgar or inappropriate subjects, while opponents argue the practice is censorship of free speech. KCTV5 reports on how the argument has once again come to the forefront in the community of Blue Springs, Missouri:

The book that spurred the debate within the Blue Springs School District is Hold Still, a novel about a young girl coping with the suicide of her best friend. Parents say that the book was part of an extra credit assignment in a freshman English class. Hold Still was pulled from the school library and curriculum last month after the parents of a 14-year-old girl learned she had read the book, which her mother describes as riddled with "F Yous" and her father says features "graphic sex scenes."

After going to the principal first to voice concerns, the upset parents did not receive a response for six weeks. The book was finally removed, pending a review from teachers and staff, after KCTV5 contacted the Blue Springs School District for an interview on the matter.

KCTV5 says the ACLU is also getting involved:

"'You clearly can't remove a book because you disagree with the ideas in them,' said Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director for the local chapter of the ACLU. 'Clearly, I'm concerned when a school removes a book that was chosen by the professional library staff for inclusion in the collection and then on the complaint of one family decides to remove the book while it's being reviewed.'

The problem is where do you stop, Bonney said. He fears removing the book violates the students' First Amendment Rights."

Hold Still's author, Nina LaCour, wrote a statement on her blog defending the book and supporting the librarians and teachers who chose to feature it. After describing an experience speaking to 3,000 teachers in "Michele 'Gays-Are-Part-of-Satan' Bachmann’s district," the author said of the book banning debate in Missouri:

"This is how I’m feeling right now: the more time I get to spend in this glorious and frustrating pursuit of writing novels, the more I appreciate the librarians and teachers who care enough for their students to seek out and provide books that will speak to them. Perhaps there is a book or two out there that does that without acknowledging any controversial subject, that imagines a teen experience with no exposure to profanity or alcohol or drugs or sex. But, most often, that isn’t the case. Like Terri Evans and her fearless crew, librarians and teachers in Missouri selected my book to be an optional part of their curriculum. I’m sure they did so because they thought it was valuable. I’m sure they actually read the whole thing before making that decision. And though a part of me is honored to now share a place in the challenged book club with Salinger and Baldwin and Faulkner and Plath, the bigger part of me just wants the teenagers in Blue Springs to read books that could start conversations. Champlin Park High School taught me how vital those conversations can be."

After not hearing a response from the district, the upset parents consulted their pastor. The parents and pastor reviewed the 15 books on the extra credit reading list and deemed at least another eight books aside from "Hold Still" to also be inappropriate.

"I'm not for banning, going to the library and say, ‘Let's ban every book there.' I'm saying we need to have oversight. These are young people, they are not adults. They are children, and so we need some oversight," said pastor Hylton Lawrence to KCTV5.

Staff at the Blue Springs School District are still reviewing whether to permit or remove Hold Still and the other books in question. KCTV5 notes that the debate could end up in court.

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