Removal of Magazine from School Library Violates First Amendment, Says ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
March 18, 2009 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to Kal Zucker, President of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education regarding reports that a local principal removed a magazine from the school library. In late 2008, Roxboro Middle School Principal Brian Sharosky instructed the school librarian to remove the November 2008 edition of Nintendo Power from circulation because he believed some of the content was inappropriate. The librarian pointed out that staff must follow library guidelines in order to remove a publication from the shelves, but Mr. Sharosky disregarded this information and continued with the removal.

ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “Libraries should be a bastion for free expression, yet this administrator was able to unilaterally censor a magazine without following any guidelines or protocols. It is especially disappointing that this occurred at a school, which should seek to expand their students’ minds rather than restrict their access to publications.”

According to Cleveland Heights-University Heights school policy, when a book is challenged by a person because of its content, they must complete a form and submit it to the superintendent. The form should name the publication and outline why it is objectionable. The superintendent then must review the form and submit a report to the Board of Education to decide whether to remove the publication. Even after the librarian notified Mr. Sharosky of the policy, he proceeded to remove the magazine from the library.

Following the removal of the book, the school librarian filed a complaint with the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union. The union presented the librarian’s complaint to the school administration, but were instructed that they sided with they principal’s actions. The union also brought the issue to the attention of the school board, but they have not ruled on the situation yet.

“Schools have policies like this in place in order to balance the protection of the first amendment while also shielding young people from truly objectionable material. By circumventing the established policies, Mr. Sharosky showed disregard for the first amendment by acting as the sole judge for what the students should or should not be exposed to” Link added.

“Literature should not be removed form a school library simply because one person may find it inappropriate. The school board must immediately order that the magazine be reinstated at the library and the policy reinforced for all staff members” concluded Link.

Read the letter to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education.

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