Case vs Unified School District 233

A federal court case involving the removal of a book

School District/Library violating the 1st Amendment

In 1993, the superintendent of Johnson County School District in Olathe, Kansas was offered donations of books for the district from Project 21 (an advocacy group); one being, Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden, which involves a homosexual relationship. After some complaints, he notified the school board of the donations and the school board declined offers and removed existing copies from the shelves within the districts. Plaintiffs, Stevana Case, Steven Case (father & teacher), Andy Case (Stevana's brother), Amanda Greb (student/minor) and (Amanda's mom) Cynthia Greb filed a legal complaint on March 9, 1994 against the defendant, Unified School District No 233 Johnson County, Kansas, stating that removing and banning the book violated their "liberty of press and speech" under Kansas Bill of Rights, as well as the 1st and 14th amendments of the US Constitution. Although the board has the right to declare a book as "educationally unsuitable", due to the testimonies of the board members that spoke otherwise, the judge and court found that it was removed due to personal disapproval. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on the 1st amendment and the Kansas Bill of Rights. The district failed to follow regular and in-place procedures for removing books and from its' libraries. The book had to be returned no later than January 2, 1996 to the shelves and the plaintiffs were awarded legal fees.

What does this mean for media specialist, our school districts and libraries?

James LaRue says it best, "the "censorship crisis" is clearly on the upswing". As librarians, we will get approached with questions as to why a book is on our shelves or why it hasn't been removed from our shelves. We need to be prepared for these questions and more importantly, try to keep our personal beliefs and opinions out of our collection and selection decisions. Ultimately, the materials on the shelves of our school libraries should reflect our curriculum, our student body and teacher request. If a book is requested to be removed, we need to follow any standards our district has set forth to remove or ban. Keep in mind that not all books are going to be positive or pleasant. Conflicts are going to arise in all books. LaRue recommends simply looking at the classics, "Take Romeo and Juliet, a sordid tale of teenage sex, drug abuse, and suicide..". LaRue gives a thought for us to ponder, "When someone complains about a title that offends religious sensibilities, I remind him or her that this year, someone challenged the Bible on the basis that it was violent and contained references to and many actual descriptions of rape, incest, and homosexuality, to name just a few of its more explicit and offensive passages. Should we toss out the Bible, too?" Despite our personal views, values and opinions, it is always best to stick to your districts standards and strive to have a collection that reflects your school's student body and teachers.