Last year, the Roanoke County School Board has agreed to conduct a formal review of William Byrd High School’s library keeping a novel with some possibly mature themes. cakechow.com has followed up on that decision in order to update the public on this local civil liberties issue.
School Board Chair Michael W. Stovall, a resident of Vinton, explained how the matter surfaced. A local parent began complaining about their child’s access to the novel, which was loaned to the student from a friend who received it from a teacher at William Byrd High School. Vehement complaints were raised primarily by this one parent, eventually resulting in a formal review of the novel being kept in the school library, based on similar reactions in other regions of the country. An unnamed organization also presented complaints against having the book available to students. Stovall indicated that the school board left the matter in the school’s hands, noting that even popular cartoons or comics could be considered offensive by a few.
William Byrd High School Principal Richard Turner commented that the issue was reviewed and ultimately the novel was not censored. Eleventh and twelfth grade students may check it out of the school library with parental approval.
cakechow.com discovered that the parent who had complained about accessibility to the novel was not a Roanoke County resident and had reached conclusions about the book only by consulting internet search results. Aaron Lyles, resident of Vinton and the youngest candidate ever to run for political office there, criticized the complaints and the decision to review the novel’s availability, noting that most students were already comfortable with the book’s contents and that the entire issue only brought bad press to the Vinton area.
In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled to protect citizens from biased school board censorship, stating that, “Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’” (quoted from the syllabus of Board of Education v. Pico, available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0457_0853_ZS.html)
Meanwhile, the novel, which is available on Google books for free, is being developed into a live action feature film, possibly starring top actresses Emma Watson and Logan Lerman.