Randolph reverses book ban

Sep. 27, 2013 @ 05:18 PM

The Randolph County Board of Education has had a change of heart about its decision to ban the book “Invisible Man” from school libraries.
Last week the board met and voted on banning the book after receiving a complaint from a Randleman High School parent, Kimiyutta Parson, saying the book was “too much for teenagers.”
The board voted 5-2 to ban the book, written by Ralph Ellison, from the district’s school libraries.
But after backlash from the community and educators, the board reconsidered its decision and held a special meeting on Wednesday to vote on the matter again.
Several board members, including Matthew Lambert and Gary Cook, changed their vote and reversed the ban on Ellison’s book that deals with the themes of the black experience in America under segregation and racial discrimination.
“I felt like I came to a conclusion too quickly,” Lambeth told Reuters news agency of his earlier vote to bar the book.
Prior to last week’s meeting, the book had been reviewed by a school-level committee and again by a district-level committee. Both committees decided not to remove the book from school libraries.
Word of the ban, which spread quickly thanks to national news coverage and social media, inspired one former resident to ask the book’s publisher to donate free copies to area high-school students.
Vintage Books agreed, and a giveaway of “Invisible Man” began on Wednesday at a local Books-A-Million store, said Evan Smith Rakoff, a New York-based writer and Web editor who grew up in Randolph County.
“I think banning any book is abhorrent, but banning a book that’s so undeniably great is incredibly upsetting,” Rakoff said.
“Tonight, the Randolph County Board of Education righted a wrong. The freedom to read is just as essential to a healthy democracy as the freedom of speech and all other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution,” foundation legal director Chris Brook said.
“This episode should serve as a valuable reminder to students, teachers, parents and school officials across the state of our ongoing duty to promote academic freedom, ensure the free exchange of ideas and information, and reject the always-looming threat that censorship and suppression, for any reason, pose to a free society,” Brook said.
“Invisible Man” is on the summer reading list for juniors, usually 15-16 years old, at Randleman High. Students at Randleman must choose one or two of the three suggested to read and keep a journal on. The school-level committee said in the future, a synopsis of the books on the reading list will be provided and a disclaimer stating if the book contains objectionable material.
The Guilford County Board of Education recently voted to keep “A Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood on the suggested reading list after a parent challenged it, calling it “perversely vulgar.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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