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Banned Books Week

Celebrate your right to read!

Challenges that Made It to the Courts

Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)
In 1975, members of the school board from the Island Trees School District ordered that certain books be removed from high school and junior high school libraries on the grounds that the books were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy.” Some of the books to be removed were Slaughterhouse Five, Best Short Stories of Negro Writers, Go Ask Alice, and Down These Mean Streets. A high school student named Steven Pico led a group of students who sued the board, claiming a denial of their First Amendment rights. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where a closely divided Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of the students. Writing for the plurality, Justice Brennan held that the First Amendment includes the right to read library books of a student’s choosing and that while school officials have significant authority to control the content of speech in schools, that power is not absolute. Additionally, local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.

Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education, 827 F.2d 1058 (6th Cir. 1987)
Parents and students, upset about religious themes being taught in the required reading of classes, brought this action challenging the textbooks being used in class. Specifically, the mention of telekinetic and magical powers offended the religious beliefs of the parents and the parents felt they had a right to choose what their children could or could not view and learn at school. The court held that the school board was not in violation for the required reading and that it was up to the children and parents to interpret the books for themselves. The court held that it was merely required reading and not required worship and that the reading was purely the views of another.

Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District, 541 F.2d 577 (6th Cir. 1976)
In 1972, the Strongsville City School District refused to approve faculty recommendations to use Catch-22 and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater as textbooks. Further, they ordered that Catch-22, along with Cat’s Cradle, be removed from the school library. The court held that the school board did not have the right to remove books from the library. The court reasoned that the “library is a storehouse of knowledge” and students have a First Amendment right to receive information and the librarian has a right to disseminate it.

Tattered Cover, Inc. v. City of Thornton, 44 P.3d 1044 (Colo. Sup. Ct., 2002)
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed a court decision that required Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store to turn over information about books purchased by one of its customers. As part of an investigation, officers of the City of Thornton (Colo.) discovered two books on the manufacture of amphetamines in a suspect's residence and found a Tattered Cover mailer in the garbage. The officers, seeking to tie the books to the suspect directly, served a Drug Enforcement Agency subpoena on the Tattered Cover. The subpoena demanded the title of the books corresponding to the order and invoice numbers of the mailer, as well as information about all other books ever ordered by the suspect. The Tattered Cover then brought suit to litigate the validity of the search warrant. The court began its opinion by stating that both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the Colorado Constitution protect an individual's fundamental right to purchase books anonymously, free from governmental interference.

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