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Factual Report on Libraries First Amendment Cases and the ALA Code of Ethics

Eva Price Foundations of Library and Information Science February, 2012

The First Amendment has greatly impacted the availability of information to students and all library patrons since its adoption in 1791. Numerous court cases have been heard that questioned restrictions and censorship that may have violated those rights. Since Schneck v. United States in 1919, where it was ruled that the only way that freedom of speech might not apply is if the situation led to a potentially dangerous situation (Encyclopedia Britannica Online 2012), court cases have been defining and detailing just what that Freedom of Speech includes. At the center of these debates lay the school and the school library. After legal action was taken against students who wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, the Tinker v. Des Moines case clearly concluded that students have the same constitutional rights at school that they would elsewhere (United States Courts). With the support of these legal documents and cases, the American Library Association (ALA) and school librarians are constantly defending and defining students rights to information freely in a public school. The American Library Association established a Code of Ethics in 1939 in order to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the librarian as they pertain to Intellectual Property. That code clearly guides librarians to actively challenge attempts to censor books in order to provide resources that allow students to retrieve a variety of information from diverse perspectives. According to the American Association of School Librarians, students have a right to collect and research different points of view on subjects, and those resources should not be limited to what a school board, teacher or librarian deems suitable or appropriate (AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee 2008). Libraries are constantly being faced with challenges involving book selection and collection management. Since 1990, 10,415 cases of censorship have been

recorded, of which 7,230 were in a school (Hill 2012). Challenges happen throughout the States, and often they are successful. In fact, the National School Boards Association claimed that about one third of challenges were successful as of 1989 (Aurnague and Jean and Bass 1989). Supreme Court cases tend to rule in favor of the school, and therefore many resources have been established to protect the libraries and the schools from legal action (Aurnague and Jean and Bass 1989). The list of challenged books is lengthy. Among those included in the list are: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. More recent titles include R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Education World). With each court case, specifics of the First Amendment are clarified more and more, and the ALA has provided many resources for librarians to be effectively prepared for possible incidents. One of the most notable court cases is that of Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico. In that case, members of the school board were convinced that nine books that were included in the library should be removed because they were inappropriate for youngsters, specifically the students at their school (First Amendment Schools 2012). It was ruled that this was unconstitutional and that school boards are not able to remove books based on what they think is suitable or what their particular ideas and ideals might be. School boards ultimately are not able to decide what is politically, nationally, religiously or socially acceptable for students, and therefore those books were ordered back on the shelf with open access to students (First Amendment Schools 2012). This case became the framework for future cases regarding schools and the First Amendment.

However, the case of Bicknell v. Vergennes Union High School Board of Directors came out quite differently when the Board of Directors wanted to remove the Wanderers and Dog Day Afternoon. This decision was made by the same panel as the Pico case and was heard at approximately the same time. The details, however, were considered to be different enough to warrant the opposite verdict. In that case, the U.S. District Court claimed that the school board was the final authority on what books are included in the library, because the language itself was harmful. Ultimately, the cases were separated by intent. In Bicknell, the judge said that the school board was removing offensive language, but in Pico that language was considered removing ideas (Foerstel 2002). Clearly these details are important and in deciding how to handle these situations, librarians need clear guidelines and support to establish the protocol for potential challenges such as these. The American Association of School Librarians recognizes that language is open for interpretation, as seen in the comparison of these two cases. Consequently they have gathered resources to support librarians in maintaining their ethical code and defending the rights of students as readers, learners and researchers. They established a Library Bill of Rights to clarify what the rights of library patrons are. Included in those rights are that guidelines that libraries should not exclude materials based on their own personal bias or their own disapproval. In addition, the Bill outlines that it is a librarians responsibility to challenge censorship, as the role of a librarian is to provide insight and education through education and resources (American Association of School Librarians 1996). Also included in those rights are that everyone should be able to use the library, and that a library is not restricted by age, religion, beliefs, education or status (American Association of School Librarians 1996). Age is specifically mentioned in the Bill, because support of youngsters and

students is particularly crucial, as often these important censorship cases are regarding a students age, academic or maturity level. The ALA also provides information about how to prepare for a challenge and prevent them. According to the ALA, schools should have a clear Materials Selection Policy that is approved by the school librarian and the principal. Librarians role is to select books and not to sensor them. Selection is a positive process, encouraging versatile and comprehensive material from a variety of perspectives. Censoring, on the other hand, is considered a negative act. Librarians should encourage the positive process of selection with this Materials Selection Policy (AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee 2008) and include that policy in the resources that are clearly in place to aid with future challenges. The ALA also suggests that there be a clear procedure in how to challenge a book. That procedure should be approved by the school board and clearly posted on websites and in schools and administration offices. Part of that challenging procedure should be a form that is required for each book challenged. For example, one would have to submit separate forms for each book in the Harry Potter series to challenge the whole series. Also suggested is that the challenger be required to read the whole book (AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee 2008). These clear procedures make it easier for librarians to prepare and defend themselves should a case arise. In the case of Campbell v. St Tammany Parish School, the St. Tammany Parish School Board decided to remove the book Voodoo and Hoodoo by Jim Haskins, which centered on African history. Though it does include some spells, tricks and hexes, it also has cultural significance and historical relevance. It was found that many of the School Board members had not read the book in its entirety, and rather they had flipped through or only selected certain passages. The court

determined that this removal could be considered unconstitutional and possibly trying to prevent free thinking before it even had a chance to consider ideas (Open Jurist 2012). These court decisions continue to set new parameters and aid in the clarification of new challenges. For example, Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas put two books, Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddys Roommate back on the shelves because their removal was based on discrimination, which did not align with the greater interest of the state. Also important to this case was the review process, which was not adhered to. As the ALA suggests, with clear regulations as-to the selection process established ahead of time, these definitions become clearer and court cases become more successful in maintaining intellectual freedom (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012). A similar case, Case v. Unified School District, the book Annie on My Mind, centered around lesbian teenagers, was put back on the shelf because the school district claimed that it unbefitting an educational institution, which would have fallen under the previous Pico decision. However, it was found that the grounds for the potential removal of the book was more based on a conflict in personal ideology. The Unified School District had established a policy on this, and they were consequently in direct violation of that policy. The judge did not look favorably upon this, and the decision was made to put the book back on the shelf (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012). There are no shortage of court cases involving the First Amendment as it pertains to schools and students. The Supreme Court in Kings County, New York ruled that in Rosenberg v. Board of Education of City of New York proved that the Board of Education was completely justified in having both Oliver Twist and the Merchant of Venice in the library. Rosenberg wanted to have them removed on

racial/religious grounds, but the court supported the school district because the texts were important for students education and development. The court ruled that there was no reason to remove those two texts (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012). Additionally, the ruling on Todd v. Rochester Community Schools was that Slaughterhouse-Five was acceptable to leave in the library. The case of Salvail v. Nashua Board of Education deemed that the attempted removal of Ms. Magazine from the school library was simply wrong (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012), despite the best efforts to claim that the magazine was inappropriate. The list of court cases is quite long, and the American Library Association would consider there to be a great number of successes. These court cases are well-noted on their website for further research. The court cases still continue. In 2003, when the Harry Potter series was challenged in Counts v. Cedarville School district, the courts overturned the Board of Education and the books were returned to the shelves in unrestricted circulation (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012). The curriculum is organized by the school and usually can be adapted to meet the schools interest, however the library books are public information carefully selected by librarians, students and community members to give a broad perspective on the world. During the Right to Read Defense Committee v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea case, in which the School Committee hoped to ban a poetry anthology entitled Male and Female, Judge Joseph L. Tauro ruled to put the book back into circulation. Additionally, the judge remarked that the library and a school is an establishment designed for exploring ideas and elaborating on ideas in coursework. He stated that censorship was a way to control young minds and stunt creative ideas

from happening, discouraging students from becoming individual thinkers (American Association of School Librarians 1997-2012). Students have the First Amendment right to access information that will make them critical thinkers and thoughtful information consumers. Still, the students right to information is securely protected by the Bill of Rights. With these established guidelines, these court rulings, and the resources and regulations adapted into the ALA, libraries should continue to have valuable resources for learning that will pave the way for students and citizens of the future to be their own advocates and explore life from a variety of perspectives.

References American Association of School Librarians. 1999. Coping with Challenges. Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/challengeslib rarymaterials/essentialpreparation/kidslibraries American Association of School Librarians. 1997. Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics American Association of School Librarians. 1996 "Library Bill of Rights." Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl /files/content/aaslissues/intellectual_freedom_brochure1210.pdf. American Association of School Librarians. 1997-2012. "Notable First Amendment Cases." Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/firstamend ment/courtcases/courtcases. AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee. 2008. "What is Intellectual Freedom?" Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/ files/content/aaslissues/intellectual_freedom_brochure1210.pdf. Aurnague-DeSpain. Jean Marie, and Alan Bass. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Censorship of Curriculum Materials. ERIC Digest Series Number EA44. 1989. ERIC, EBSCOhost. Education World. "Banning Books from the Classroom: How to Handle Cries for Censorship." Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr031.shtml Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. Schenck v. United States, Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1508863/Schenck-vUnited-States. First Amendment Schools, "Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)." 2012. Accessed March 27, 2012.http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=41. Foerstel, Herbert N. Banned in the USA. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=KjbxM4CshdIC&printsec= frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Open Jurist, "64 F. 3d 184 - Campbell v. St Tammany Parish School Board Delcarpio." Accessed March 26, 2012. http://openjurist.org/64/f3d /184/campbell-v-st-tammany-parish-school-board-delcarpio. United States Courts, "Facts and Case Summary." Accessed March 27, 2012. http://www.uscourts.gov/EducationalResources/ClassroomActivities/FirstAme ndment/FreeSpeechAndSchoolConduct/FactsAndCaseSummary.aspx.

Hill, Rebecca. 2010. The Problem of Self-Censorship. School Library Monthly. 27, no. 2: 9-12. Accessed March 27, 2012. ERIC, EBSCOhost.