The role of censorship in school.School authorities face great complexities and inevitable challenges when deciding to make or not to make censorship decisions in schools. Matters of educational content, age level, acceptability by parents and communities, and appropriateness in the school setting are among the decisions having to be made. When school official decisions result in disagreements, the courts eventually are called upon to render final disposition of such matters. This article offers select examples of representative censorship decisions and final dispositions are discussed.
The United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. has required its young people to be educated since the early days of the nation. Since children are required to attend school until they reach a certain age or have achieved a stated level of education, (1) they become captive audiences. Divergent laws, policies, rules and practices through the years and across the numerous school districts and college/university governing boards Noun 1. governing board - a board that manages the affairs of an institution
board - a committee having supervisory powers; "the board has seven members" have imposed or allowed various forms of censorship involving textbook content, teacher classroom presentation style and content, assigned readings, and extra-curricular school activities. Through the years, public debate and protests over the amount of and type of censorship in the schools have taken place; discussions and disagreements over what forms censorship should be practiced in public education have unfolded; and debates over who ought be charged with supervising such allowed censorship have been held in both formal and informal forums? (2) This essay examines many of the issues that exist relevant to deciding whether and when censorship is permissible and/or advisable and who ought be empowered to make such decisions. Censorship is an extremely sensitive, value-laden, and little understood phenomenon that needs better exposure for the public, students, teachers, parents, school boards, and school administrators.
It is argued here that censorship is only valid, ethical, and required when it appears to be the only way to avoid or to mitigate provable physical, social, emotional, or intellectual harmful outcomes for students, teachers, or the school itself. When schools censor censor (sĕn`sər), title of two magistrates of ancient Rome (from c.443 B.C. to the time of Domitian). They took the census (by which they assessed taxation, voting, and military service) and supervised public behavior. ideas, students become increasingly interested in such subjects and typically discover some clandestine CLANDESTINE. That which is done in secret and contrary to law.
2.Generally a clandestine act in case of the limitation of actions will prevent the act from running. means to gain access to these taboo ideas. When such means are thus acquired by students, there is lost any chance that teachers, librarians, or parents can become personally aware of and involved in contextualizing, prioritizing, or explaining what the student has secured. When teachers, librarians, and parents are involved with what is encountered by children, there is less chance that harm from such material will visit that individual.
Censorship, as discussed here, is defined as the forbidding, blocking, limiting, or obstructing access to information for whatever reason. Censorship has taken on a negative, even demonized, loading in our US culture: however, using the above definition, parental and teacher gate-keeping qualify as typically positive and generally acceptable examples of censorship. Parents and teachers--and many others--are obliged o·blige
v. o·bliged, o·blig·ing, o·blig·es
1. To constrain by physical, legal, social, or moral means.
2. by their legitimate positions to censor specific words and images from student access. This article focuses on these teacher, school administrator, and school board endeavors that forbid, block, limit, or obstruct ob·struct
To block or close a body passage so as to hinder or interrupt a flow.
ob·structive adj. student access to information.
School censors This is an incomplete list of censors of the Roman Republic
1. Appealing to or stimulating sexual desire; lascivious.
2. Lustful; bawdy.
[From Latin sal , frightening, inciting, titillating tit·il·late
v. tit·il·lat·ed, tit·il·lat·ing, tit·il·lates
1. To stimulate by touching lightly; tickle.
2. To excite (another) pleasurably, superficially or erotically. , overwhelming, or seditious se·di·tious
1. Of, relating to, or having the nature of sedition.
2. Given to or guilty of engaging in or promoting sedition. See Synonyms at insubordinate. words or images out of reach of students that might likely inhibit, prohibit, obfuscate To make unclear or confuse. See obfuscator and e-mail obfuscator. , sidetrack, or contradict what is intended to be taught in the school. Such beliefs are not always grounded in fact: and some that are factually grounded do not justify censorship as a remedy.
Racial issue understanding and protection against racial slurs are one issue that frequently suggest some level of censorship in order to not offend anyone negatively focused upon and to ward off potential parental lawsuits. School official safeguards against possible racial insensitivity are not always favored by non-school groups. One such example follows.
The Yellow Medicine East School District [Minnesota] pulled the book: Little House on the Prairie on the complaint from a single parent that the book "contains racially offensive material about Native Americans." (3) The MCLU MCLU Maine Civil Liberties Union argued to the board that
... educators should use the offensive content in [the book] as an opportunity to discuss the pervasive nature of racism and how things have and have not changed since the book was written ... [and] ... Isn't a teachable moment in the third grade more valuable than a lifetime of ignorance? (4)
The board refused to ban the book but did issue a suggestion to the school that another book choice might be wise. Such action was interpreted diversely: pro-ban advocates saw it as vindication VINDICATION, civil law. The claim made to property by the owner of it. 1 Bell's Com. 281, 5th ed. See Revendication. of the MCLU's position minus formal action while the anti-ban proponents viewed the decision as siding with their views.
The fact that this long-running and highly rated TV show that followed the book seemed, in some people's minds not to mitigate accusations of intended racism. School officials faced age level implications as well as content factors here.
The Boulder Valley School District The Boulder Valley School District is the local school district for Boulder, Colorado and ten neighboring communities including Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, and Nederland.
The Boulder Valley Board of Education officially appointed Dr. Board [Colorado] supported a local school in barring a third grader's science project closely resembling renown psychologist Kenneth Clark's 1954 racial experiment using dolls. The young girl, properly used the scientific method and titled her presentation: "Does skin color make a difference?" School authorities declined to allow her project to be displayed in the fair even though it had been approved by her teacher. Authorities claimed that this project would be offensive to some minority students [and parents] and therefore was inappropriate. (5) No lawsuit resulted, but a school board review of criteria for school presentations was promised. (6)
Even though appropriate topic selection for the assignment and the grade level was made and inoffensive and proper experiment preparation and presentation methods were planned, school officials worried about how some audience members might react to this science presentation. A major objection to this concern revolved around the question of how children would react to the concept of asking good questions and seeking in appropriate ways answers being censored cen·sor
1. A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.
2. due to others' hurt feelings. Questions of blunting inquiry were raised here.
At times, some individuals or groups seem threatened by specific or general book content or by rumors concerning such content and they attempt to influence others with authority to refuse to secure such books from school libraries or to remove such books themselves from school bookshelves. There have been various means and rationales employed to these ends which the courts have found to violate students' constitutional rights. An example follows below.
In 1971, an autobiographical book about a Puerto Rican Puer·to Ri·co
Abbr. PR or P.R.
A self-governing island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean Sea east of Hispaniola. Harlem resident was removed from three junior high school libraries by Community School Board No. 25 of Queens County Queens County or Queen's County is the name of:
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of due to "objections to four-letter words [and] detailed descriptions of sexual activity ... and drug addiction drug addiction
or chemical dependency
Physical and/or psychological dependency on a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance (e.g., alcohol, narcotics, nicotine), defined as continued use despite knowing that the substance causes harm. ." (7) "In Presidents Council, District 25 v. Community School Board No. 25 (1971)" the question was raised "whether a school board has the authority to remove a book from a school library" (8) Council's lawyers conceded a Board's right to select books; however, once selected, the claim was made, they could not be removed due to content objections. (9) In 1972, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the school board had the right to remove as well as select books. (10) One major objection to having courts decided such issues is their distance from the local issue and courts' inability to keep abreast Verb 1. keep abreast - keep informed; "He kept up on his country's foreign policies"
keep up, follow
trace, follow - follow, discover, or ascertain the course of development of something; "We must follow closely the economic development is Cuba" ; "trace the of the issue described in the following paragraph.
One significant sub issue here lies with schools' administration, library, and teacher turnover as well as changing students and parents over the years. One group approve a book and then later another group disapproves the same book. Authorities thus have a moving target they are constantly expected to evaluate and please. Censorship is not forever; it is transitory TRANSITORY. That which lasts but a short time, as transitory facts that which may be laid in different places, as a transitory action. .
Sometimes censorship issues are determined in great part by "experts" and decisions about who qualifies as an expert. Issues of reading level also come to play in many censorship decisions. Following is a case involving both these issues. In 1972, a suit challenging the Strongville Board of Education [Ohio] which had refused to Approve Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Rosewater, and Catch-22 citing these books as being "adult oriented" (11) and "less suitable for use as [a] curriculum text for grades 10-12 and ordered these books removed from library shelves. (12) Five families sued school officials" claiming school officials did not possess absolute authority over their students. Families argued school action constituted censorship and was unconstitutional in that decisions were not vetted by "experts." (13) On August 9, 1974, Judge Robert Krupansky of the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio The District of Ohio was a federal judicial district of the United States created by the Federal Judiciary Act of 1801 which consisted of the Northwest and Indiana Territories. ruled in Minacini v. Strongville City School District (1) "that the school board did have the authority to select textbooks for the district" (2) that the board made its decisions in a proper way; and (3) that there were no constitutional issues at stake in this case. The judge argued that public hearings and the professional standing of those deciding on books were proper and sufficient expertise in decision making. (14) The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit amended the lower court's ruling by stating "Ohio law gave the board authority to approve or purchase textbooks; but the board did not have the authority to remove books from the school library. (15) This ruling required removed books be placed back on library shelves. This last decision harkens back to the problem of changing school personnel over time and adds to the complexity and confusion that administrators and school librarians have in making selection decisions.
A major philosophical matter arises here as to who ought be making educational content issues: school teachers and librarians, school administrators, school boards, parents, or some combination. Only rarely do courts refuse to make such decisions when parties object to decisions, so these decisions are made by the most distant to the school. judges. Inadvertently, children learn in such cases, that adult decisions are not final until a judge affirms them.
Often it is school, administrator, or teacher censorship rights and decisions that are argued in court; but sometimes, student individual censorship rights get litigated. In Tinker v. Des Moines Des Moines, city, United States
Des Moines (dĭ moin`), city (1990 pop. 193,187), state capital and seat of Polk co., S central Iowa, at the junction of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers; inc. School District (1969). the US Supreme Court ruled that "Students have a First Amendment right to express their own ideas, at least if they do so in a way that does not fundamentally interfere with their school's functions." (16) The Tinker case revolved around two fifteen year old boys and one thirteen year old girl wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam war Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. and in support of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's promise to extend a truce in the war. (17) When peers at school joined in their protest, school administrators "moved to stop the protest and isolate and punish the students who wore the armbands." (18) Justice Fortas' stated in his majority opinion:
School officials banned and sought to punish petitioners for a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied un·ac·com·pa·nied
1. Going or acting without companions or a companion: unaccompanied children on a flight.
2. Music Performed or scored without accompaniment. by any disorder or disturbances on the part of petitioners. There is here no evidence whatever of petitioner's interference, actual or nascent, with the school's work or of collision with the rights of other students to be secure and to be left alone (19)
Justice Fortas' opinion implicitly put forth reasons when school officials might be allowed to ban protests and or to punish students for disrupting school activity or lessening other students' security or safety. Not all Supreme Court opinions are so formed. Fortas' opinion went on to state:
In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. (20) (pp. 25-26).
Censorship, here, came down to a question of degree rather than kind. School officials must be able to prove serious harm will result, not mere embarrassment or inconvenience before censorship will be sustained in the courts.
Taste and appropriateness, sometimes judged in terms of obscenity obscenity, in law, anything that tends to corrupt public morals by its indecency. The moral concepts that the term connotes vary from time to time and from place to place. In the United States, the word obscenity is a technical legal term. In the 1950s the U.S. are the benchmark employed to determine if censorship is warranted. In Bethel High School Bethel High School may refer to the following:
nominating address, nomination for a fellow student running for a student government position." (21) The theme of the speech was replete re·plete
1. Abundantly supplied; abounding: a stream replete with trout; an apartment replete with Empire furniture.
2. Filled to satiation; gorged.
3. with sexual metaphor and double entendres; this was more suggestive than school authorities could allow. The student was suspended from school; a ruling that spawned Bethel School District v. Fraser Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), was a United States Supreme Court decision involving free speech and public schools.
On April 26, 1983, Matthew Fraser, a Spanaway, Washington, high school senior, gave a speech nominating classmate Jeff Kuhlman (1986). The lower court and a federal appeals court upheld the student's fight to free political discourse; the US Supreme Court accepted the case on appeal and ruled against the student. Chief Justice Warren Burger Noun 1. Warren Burger - United States jurist appointed chief justice of the United States Supreme Court by Richard Nixon (1907-1995)
Burger, Warren E. Burger, Warren Earl Burger , writing for the majority stated:
The undoubted freedom to advocate unpopular and controversial views in schools and classrooms must be balanced against the society's countervailing interest in teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. Even the most heated political discourse in a democratic society requires consideration for the personal sensibilities of the other participants and audiences .... Surely, it is a highly appropriate function of public school education to prohibit the use of vulgar and offensive terms in public discourse. (22)
This ruling allows for better classroom management and places obligations on school authorities to assure that alternative means of protecting other students exist before censoring censoring
in epidemiology, a loss of information from a study, whether by subjects dropping out of the study or because of infrequent measurement. speech.
For school censorship to be valid, some inevitable, unavoidable, and egregious e·gre·gious
Conspicuously bad or offensive. See Synonyms at flagrant.
[From Latin damage to students, teachers, or school property (physical, social, or emotional) must be clearly shown to exist. Censorship to avoid discomfort, embarrassment, extra teacher work, or parental objection is grossly insufficient. If students make ugly, discomforting, silly, mean spirited, erroneous, inaccurate, illogical, or in other ways flawed speeches, writings, or depictions, these need not be nor should be censored but rather used in a compassionate, wise, and purposeful way the subject of a lesson in effective message-making. Discussions of flawed message content, intent, motive, and likely or actual consequences are what make excellent classroom units.
Question of censorship have been shown to be varied and subject to objection from diverse sources. Obviously, it would be best for those making censorship or non-censorship decisions to be wise, prudent, careful, and sensitive to others' views and wishes. Unfortunately, in many instances, objecting parties who lose in their quest to secure decisions they deem correct often resort to judges' decisions. School officials thus frequently render defensive decisions or opt out of activities or choices in order to avoid the costs and inconvenience of endless hearings, appeals, and courtroom battles. Often useful educational experiences are sacrificed to avoid these battles and children lose out. The loss of confidence in teachers making classroom decisions has grown to large quarter and school administrators and school boards have reacted accordingly.
(1) National Center for Educational Statistics. (2001). State Compulsory School Attendance Laws. Washington, DC: Department of Education. Students are required in the various states to attend school until ages 16-18 or to have completed grade 10 in other states.
(2) This essay limits its discussion to censorship of oral and written forms and deals only with matters relevant to occurrences in grades K-12. It is acknowledged that many of the issues discussed in this essay occur at the higher education higher education
Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art. level: however, these are beyond the scope of this article.
(3) Minnesota ACU ACU
See: Asian currency units Fights School Censorship Of "Little House on the Prairie." (1998, December 11). Press release http://archive.aclu.org/news/ n121198c.html found on December 20, found on 2003 at p. 1.
(4) Minnesota ACU Fights School Censorship Of "Little House on the Prairie," p. 1.
(5) ACLU of Colorado Challenges School Censorship of 8-year-old's Science Project on Racism. (2001, February 28. Press release archive.aclu.org/news/2001/n022801c.html found on December 20, 2003 at p. 1.
(6) ACLU of Colorado Challenges, p. 3.
(7) Rogers, Donald J. (1988). Banned! Book Censorship in the Schools. New York: Julian Messner, p. 11.
(8) Rogers, p. 12.
(9) Rogers, pp. 12-13.
(10) Rogers, p. 13.
(11) Rogers, p. 31.
(12) Rogers, p. 32.
(13) Rogers, p. 32.
(14) Rogers, p. 32.
(15) Rogers, p. 34.
(16) Raskin, Jamin B. (2000). We Students: Supreme Court Cases for and About Students. Washington, DC Congressional Quarterly Congressional Quarterly, Inc., or CQ, is a privately owned publishing company that produces a number of publications reporting primarily on the United States Congress. Press, p. 23.
(17) Raskin, p. 23.
(18) Raskin, p. 24.
(19) Raskin, p. 26.
(20) Raskin, pp. 25-26.
(21) Raskin, p. 42.
(22) Raskin, p. 46.
Dr. Ken Petress, Faculty, University of Maine "UMO" redirects here, but this abbreviation is also used informally to mean the Mozilla Add-ons website, formerly Mozilla Update
Should not be confused with Université du Maine, in Le Mans, France
The University of Maine .
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Petress, University of Maine@Presque Isle Presque Isle (prĕsk īl) [Fr.,=peninsula], city (1990 pop. 10,550), Aroostook co., NE Maine, inc. 1859. It is the trade, tourist, and shipping center of the Aroostook valley. , Presque Isle, Maine Presque Isle is a city in Aroostook County, Maine, United States. The population was 9,511 at the 2000 census. The city is home to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College and the Northern Maine Regional Airport. 04769-2888.