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‘Looking For Alaska’ Challenged in Wisconsin, Second Challenge to a John Green Book This Summer

NEW YORK, NY — Kids’ Right to Read Project and other organizations have expressed concern about a request for a district-wide ban on John Green’s award-winning novel Looking For Alaska in Waukesha, Wisconsin schools.

In a letter to the Waukesha superintendent and school board (read online), KRRP explains that the parent who requested the ban “is, of course, entitled to her opinion about the book; however, her opinion does not provide adequate grounds to justify the book’s removal,” especially since this is a book that “has substantial educational and literary value for high school students, meets the district’s criteria for educational material, and should be retained.”

“From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, award-winning books of interest to young people are regularly under attack in this country” said NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin. The letter cites Supreme Court decisions that bar government officials, including public school administrators, from prohibiting materials because some may find them “offensive or disagreeable.” In this case, however, “we are pleased that the district has committed to following its complaint and review policies, because this process is more likely to yield results that are consistent with educational and First Amendment principles.” 

The letter points out that “banning the book may well violate the First Amendment rights of those parents and their children who do not find the book objectionable and would choose to read it if offered the opportunity,” and warns that removing a book like Looking For Alaska in response to an individual’s objection “means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent.”

This is the second book by John Green that NCAC has defended this summer.  Green’s novel, Paper Towns, was summarily removed from the 8th grade summer reading list in a school in Pasco County (Florida).  After KRRP and its allies protested, the book was quietly reinstated.

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.

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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