UPDATE (July 25, 2014): The board responded by abolishing the list altogether, thereby enabling students to meet the summer reading requirement by reading anything, regardless of its value.
CONTACT: Richard Morse, Legal Director—302-654-5326 x103, email@example.com
Wilmington, DE (July 23, 2014) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware today urged the Cape Henlopen Board of Education to rescind its removal of Emily Danforth’s novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post from district summer reading lists.
The decision at the June 12, 2014 board meeting to remove The Miseducation of Cameron Post is voidable because the board did not comply with the Delaware sunshine law by informing the public before the meeting that it intended to consider removing the book.
The violation is indisputable,” said Richard Morse, ACLU of Delaware legal director. “The board should recognize at its forthcoming meeting that the decision was a nullity. The district must start over and follow its rules if people still want to press the matter.”
The book, which features a lesbian protagonist, is said to have been removed from the summer reading list for incoming ninth graders because it contains the “F” word. At least three books on the district’s list—comprised of winners and nominees of the Blue Hen Book Award, which is administered by the Youth Services Division of the Delaware Library Association—include the word, but only Cameron Post was struck from the list.
Sandi Minard, the board member who prompted the motion to remove Cameron Post, candidly admitted at the board meeting that she disagreed with ideas in the book.
Dislike for a book’s message and fear of controversy and negativity are not constitutional bases for the board to reject a book selected by education professionals,” Morse said. “Schools have a legal obligation to allow the free and open exchange of ideas and information. Removing a book for those reasons violates students’ First Amendment rights and stifles academic freedom.”
Further, the Cape Henlopen Board of Education failed to comply with its own procedural requirements. Board Policy No. 110 requires that citizens of the school community who wish to challenge materials related to school curriculum must present their criticism to the school principal in writing. The challenged materials must then be reevaluated by the librarian and two teachers before a decision on the complaint is made. Those requirements were not met before the Board of Education voted to remove The Miseducation of Cameron Post from the list of books students could choose for the summer reading requirement.