How are Books Banned From Your School Library?
April 2nd is International Children's Book Day. Today and every day, we should inspire children to read, explore, and discover the world through books.
What better place for children to immerse themselves into the world of literature and imagination than their school library? Ideally, a school library should promote the freedom to choose, explore, and express one's opinions. Most of the time, school libraries are liberal in their book selection. However, books are challenged and banned all too often. What one reader might view as innocent, another reader views as inappropriate.
So, how do libraries decide which books to put on the shelves and which to ban?
Most books are presumed to be appropriate for library shelves. Before a book is banned, somebody must file a complaint with the library to challenge a certain book. The complaint must explain why the book is offensive and should be banned.
For example, Laura Mallory, on a crusade against the Harry Potter Books, wanted the books banned because "witchcraft is being mainstreamed to our children today. I surely do not want [my children] to be indoctrinated into a religion whose practices are evil."
Once a complaint is filed, the school or library will review the challenge to decide on whether the book should be banned or not. Often, books are banned due to profanity, sexually explicit content, violence, witchcraft, politics, or homosexuality.
Censorship And The Law
In Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico, the Supreme Court ruled that, because of the First Amendment, school officials could not remove library materials simply because they disagreed with the ideas within. There is only adequate ground for banning a book if it is pervasively vulgar.
However, this does not mean that the Constitution protects obscene books. In Miller v. California, the Court created a three-point test that would allow libraries and schools to ban a book. The test considers whether:
- The dominant theme appeals to a prurient interest in sex;
- The material is patently offensive in its description and representation of sexual matters; and
- The material has no social value whatsoever.
The courts loathe falling into the slippery slope of censorship. So, they set high standards to to prevent needless banning of books.
Books That Were Once Banned
Despite those high standards, you'll be surprised by the list of seemingly innocent classic books that were once banned:
- The Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
- Where's Waldo?, by Martin Handford
- The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
- Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
- Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
- Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Do you believe these books should be banned? Or, do you believe that children should be allowed to read and learn from these books? Please tweet us or let us know your thoughts on Facebook. We'd like to hear from you.
- Banned Books List (FindLaw's Learn About The Law)
- This Week is Banned Books Week (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- 5 Books Lawyers Should Read on a Sunny Beach This Spring Break (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Reselling Books Online? Read Kirtsaeng First (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)