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Pasco School District’s Removal of ‘Paper Towns’ From Summer Reading List Violates Own Policies, Sound Educational and Constitutional Principles

NEW YORK, NY — In a letter sent today (read online), NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read Project and a number of other organizations expressed concerns over the removal of John Green’s award-winning novel Paper Towns, from the 8th grade summer reading list at John Long Middle School in Pasco County (FL). 

The letter points out that “the district’s action in removing the book violates district policies,” which require a written complaint and a review committee to formally evaluate the book’s merits. Neither occurred in this case. 

“The district’s policies, had they been followed, were more than capable of handling this situation” said NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin. “To make matters worse, there are reports of a plan to alert parents to ‘controversial material’ in books, which would stigmatize valuable literature and encourage educators to avoid assigning challenging works altogether.” Further, as the letter notes, “every community is home to a diversity of opinions on moral and religious questions. For every parent who objects to an assigned book there will be others who favor it.”

The letter warns that removing a book like Paper Towns “not only disserves the educational interests of students but also raises constitutional questions,” explaining Supreme Court decisions that bar government officials, including public school administrators, from prohibiting materials because some may find them “offensive or disagreeable.”

The Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) is a National Coalition Against Censorship signature project that is supported by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They were joined on the letter by the National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and Penguin Young Readers Group U.S. (the publisher of Paper Towns). 

The letter closes by urging the district to restore Paper Towns to the John Long Middle School Summer Reading List.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the National Coalition Against Censorship promotes freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression and opposes censorship in all its forms. Our diverse coalition of over 50 national organizations, representing the artistic, educational, religious, and labor communities, join together in the interest of protecting First Amendment rights. Learn more about current campaigns at http://ncac.org.

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