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Students, Author Protest Book Banning

Kanawha County, WV

Much to the dismay of many students, the Kanawha County (West Virginia) school board has banned the teaching of two books by author Pat Conroy following parent complaints.  

The debate began when some parents complained that the books, Prince of Tides and Beach Music, contain overly graphic descriptions of sexual and violent situations. Specifically, the parents objected to depictions of child rape, sexual assault, and mutilation.1  

In response to the complaints, the school board suspended use of the books and appointed a committee to examine whether they were appropriate.2  The school board also looked into possible ways of avoiding such controversy in the future such as implementing a book rating system similar to what is used for movies or allowing parents to opt their children out of reading a particular book.

Students in the Nitro High School AP English class where Prince of Tides was taught organized a protest against what they see as blatant censorship.  One of the students said that he and his classmates are against “the censorship of any kind of book for educational purposes.”3 Students at nearby George Washington High School joined with them, and one of the students there wrote the author, Pat Conroy, about the situation.4

Conroy replied to the student with a letter to the editor of the Charleston Gazette. He lambasted the school board for its decision to ban his books, calling them “censors, book-banners, and teacher-haters.” English teachers, he wrote, have the ability to touch students “with the dazzling beauty of language,” and censoring what they teach serves as an attack on that work. Defending the content of the books, he cited numerous instances of violence, rape, and death in both his own experience and the world at large and said, “the world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out.” He went on to say that teachers should prepare their students “for any encounters of violence or profanity,” but those encounters should not be censored.5

After deliberating, the committee recommended restoring the book, which has been approved by the College Board, a national organization that administers the Advanced Placement exam after students complete AP English, has also approved the book to the curriculum. 6  The school board, however, decided not to act on the committee’s recommendation and the books remained banned. The board agreed to return to the question at a later date.7

SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.

References

  1. Davin White, “Pat Conroy raps Nitro High's suspension of his books,” The Charleston Gazette (WV), 24 October 2007, accessed 30 October 2007, <http://wvgazette.com/section/News/2007102322?pt=0>.
  2. Davin White, “Nitro students to protest suspension of Conroy book,” The Charleston Gazette (WV), 5 October 2007, accessed 16 October 2007, <http://sundaygazettemail.com/section/News/200710041>.
  3. Ibid.
  4. White, “Pat Conroy.”
  5. Pat Conroy, “Pat Conroy’s letter about Nitro High's book suspensions,” The Charleston Gazette (WV), 24 October 2007, accessed 30 October 2007, <http://wvgazette.com/section/News/2007102326>.
  6. White, “Pat Conroy; “Pat Conroy Books Banned,” WCBD.com (SC), 6 November 2007, accessed 15 November 2007, <www.wcbd.com/midatlantic/cbd/news.apx.-content-articles-CBD-2007-11-06-0004.html>.
  7. “Ibid.

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