Five of the seven board members of the city board declared during a press conference today that they “intend to vote against” a petition, during the board meeting next Monday, presented by the Concerned Parents Association to ban several books-including Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain- from the K-12 public schools the CPA defines as “risky to expose their children to”.
The five board members in opposition to the petition include Albert Swimmer, Helen Epstein, Jean Silver, Salvatore Vincent, and the board President Charles Thorne. The other two board members, who have not given a stance, are John T. Voboril and Edward Minteer.
CPA President, Claude Pierre, says he has not read all the books, but “you don’t have to eat the fish when the smell is bad. We can’t take risks with our children.”
“We agree that some of these books are realistic, [and] we respect the intention of these concerned citizens. But some arguments are as silly as the parents in a California school who asked that The Red Badge of Courage be removed from schools because they thought it was about a Russian war decoration.” Thorne read from a statement during the conference.
In addition, the board said they are concerned they would be violating the law if they remove the books from the class because it “violates First Amendment guarantees if [they] remove books already on the library shelves.”
According to one federal court, removing the books is risky because it takes away the rights of students to receive information their teachers desire them to have.
However, the school board says although they intend to vote against the petition, they will not prohibit the CPA from speaking at the meeting Monday, and they are also open to the CPA even bringing in new arguments and ideas.
At the end of the press conference, Pierre said he did not know there was a press conference and that “after September 11, we have to be sensitive to any book, any movie, any record that teaches hate by emphasizing how we are different as Americans. You can talk about free speech all you want, but sometimes the government has to step in to keep a bad situation from getting worse”.
The books the CPA asks to be removed from the public schools are: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown, Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge, The Fixer by Bernard Malamud, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, and Down the Streets by Piri Thomas.
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