Banning books is not something you’d think actually happens in a free and open 2017 society, but one Texas school district wants to make it popular again. Katy ISD officials announced that they’d be pulling “The Hate U Give,” a popular teen book about a teen who turns activist after witnessing the police kill her unarmed friend. The book, written by African-American author Angie Thomas, debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list and has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, but Katy officials were unimpressed and claim they have pulled the book due to the profanity within it.
Superintendent Lance Hindt told the Houston Chronicle that the book wasn’t pulled because of its viewpoint but, instead, was pulled after a parent complained about bad language:
A review of the book in question shows it to include pervasive vulgarity and racially insensitive language. As such, the book has been removed pending further review based solely on its pervasive vulgarity and not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed.
Apparently, the school district thinks teenagers may be forever damaged if they *GASP* read some “bad” words in a book that is about the systemic racism and police brutality in our country. My word. Angie Thomas, however, is not convinced that is the reason the book is being pulled, upon learning of the decision she tweeted:
I’m saddened to hear that a school district in Texas banned #TheHateUGive, but I’m also empowered — you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights of the world that their stories shouldn’t be told,” wrote Thomas, referring to the gang-ravaged neighborhood where the fictional teenage main character lives. “Well, I’m going to tell them even louder. Thanks for igniting the fire.
What is a little bit suspicious but this whole thing is that Hindt apparently made a unilateral decision to pull the book. According to Vulture when audio of the parent’s complaint was played at a meeting, the school board president promised the district’s textbook review committee would review it, but:
Had they done so, a panel of educators and administrators would have been required to read and consider the novel in its entirety before determining whether to keep it in the collection — which, it’s worth noting, already includes plenty of books that contain frank depictions of drug use (Go Ask Alice, Crank), racism (Dear Martin, All American Boys), and sexuality (Two Boys Kissing, Looking for Alaska). But some time in the intervening two weeks, Hindt reportedly made the unilateral decision to skip the review process and ban the book district-wide.
“There’s a specific policy, and it’s clear that they did not follow it, that the superintendent made a unilateral decision,” said James LaRue, director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). “The school board has great latitude and superintendents do as well, but skipping over your own policy is something for which they should be held accountable.”
Nineteen district librarians have signed a petition protesting Hindt’s decision and teachers said they are “saddened” by the censorship. “We feel that it’s just a missed opportunity for our students to be able to have an open discussion about something that is a reality — about something that many of our students and even our faculty face,” an anonymous employee told Vulture. “I bought the book on my own, and we’re trying to reach out to the superintendent just to start an open dialogue. We’re not trying to demean his decision, but start a conversation.”
It is unfortunate that the superintendent has decided he has the final say in what the teenagers he serves read. Part of his job is to prepare the kids in the district for adulthood and he is doing them a massive disservice by not allowing them the breadth to make mature choices about what they want to read.