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Father’s Complaint over Book Leads to Temporary Removal from School Library in Virginia

Roanoke, VA
A Virginia father filed a complaint with William Byrd High School administrators in October concerning a novel his eleventh grade son brought home from school.  In response, the district removed Stephen Chbosky’s book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, from libraries in two of the district’s high schools. Administrators quickly changed their minds, however, and returned the book to shelves with some restrictions.[1]

The book, which contains references to homosexuality, masturbation, and rape, has been a source of controversy in schools across the country. According to the American Library Association, it ranked as the most challenged book in 2008.[2]  The father called the book “pornography,” and argued that it was not “age-appropriate for anyone.”[3]  
Others have defended the novel and highlight the positive, helpful attributes of the book.[4] One university professor commented, “Our young people are living in a world full of both fiction and nonfiction situations that deal with drug use and sexuality. Fiction books that contain that type of information can provide young people with coping strategies.” She continued to say that “reading disturbing material does not necessarily lead to unsocial behavior.”[5]
The author of the Perks of Being a Wallflower has also defended the book against similar attacks in the past. In response to his book being banned several years ago in two school districts, Chbosky highlighted the value in the mature content; he said that the way society is these days, he would think parents “would prefer some of these issues to be discussed in a much more structured setting, as opposed to keeping them in the dark.”[6] He believes that “the more you talk about it, the more you take away its power and its mystery, and people can make much more informed and mature decisions about these things.”[7]
Following the complaint at William Byrd High School, two copies of the book, were removed from the library.[8] The district then assigned a panel of three librarians to review the book. The panel recommended that the book should be available to juniors and seniors, but that freshmen and sophomores should be required to receive parental permission before checking it out.   The panel’s report argues that the value of the novel’s message outweighs the “graphic” content.[9] The board voted to uphold the panel’s recommendation and returned the books to the library shelves in early November.

[1] Courtney Cutright, “Novel will not be banned from Roanoke Co. school libraries,” The Roanoke Times, 13 November 2009, accessed 16 November 2009, <>.

[2] Courtney Cutright, “Complaint Raised over Book in High School Library,” The Roanoke Times, 8 October 2009, accessed 15 October 2009, <>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] David Tate, “Book Sparks Controversy in School System,” ABC News, 7 October 2009, accessed 15 October 2009 <>.

[5] Miller, “Explicit Banned Book Infuriates Virginia Father, Leads to School Review.”

[6] Marty Beckerman, “An Interview with Stephen Chbosky,” Word Riot, assessed 17 October 2009 <>.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Miller, “Explicit Banned Book Infuriates Virginia Father, Leads to School Review.”

[9] Cutright, “Novel will not be banned from Roanoke Co. school libraries.”