Are Chicago Public Schools officials banning books they don’t like?
No, says Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
Parents, students and teachers were bewildered after an image suggesting CPS was banning the graphic novel “Persepolis” circulated online Thursday afternoon.
The real story: CPS determined that seventh through tenth grade teachers may need additional training to teach the book, which contains graphic images of torture and violence. Therefore, Byrd-Bennett is pulling the books from seventh grade classrooms. A decision on if and how the book can be taught to eighth through tenth grade classes will be determined at a later date. The book is still available in libraries and still okay for junior, senior and Advanced Placement teachers to teach.
“Let me be clear–we are not banning this book from our schools,” Bennett said in a letter sent to CPS principals. “It was brought to our attention that it contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum.”
Despite the confusion and a social media tizzy, CPS did not release an explanation until Friday afternoon. This prompted students at Lane Tech College Prep to move ahead with a protest planned later in the day.
The photo in question shows an email sent from Lane Tech’s principal informing recipients that all copies of the book “Persepolis” are to be removed from classrooms and libraries by the end of the week. The principal claims the order is per a directive given to leaders for CPS’s geographic networks. The leaders were instructed to physically visit each school in their networks to remove the books.
Concerns of book banning, a controversial and lengthy legal endeavor in the U.S., ran amok online.
One of the earliest tweets about the alleged CPS ban was a link to a Reddit post, tweeted around 12 p.m. Thursday. The post was added to Reddit’s books section late Thursday morning and claimed “Chicago Public Schools poses sudden and unexplained book ban on ‘Persepolis.'”
Another Reddit user commented on that entry, linking to a blog post by education blogger and former teacher Fred Klonsky. Klonsky’s post included the now widely circulated Lane Tech email photo, attributed to fellow education blog CPS Chatter.
By Thursday evening, links to Klonsky’s report and the accompanying image multiplied on Twitter. Many questioned if the email was legitimate or a hoax, but few, including Lane Tech teachers, had answers.
CPS did not clarify the issue until Friday afternoon, sending a letter from Byrd-Bennett to principals and then tweeting it.
“Persepolis” is an autobiographical graphic novel series about Marjane Satrapi and her life as an Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution. The novel spawned a popular film, which faced bans and criticism in various Islamic nations, due to its portrayals of Islam. In 2009, parents in one Washington school district sought a “Persepolis” ban from junior high classrooms, calling the book “sexually charged and very offensive.” The district disagreed and kept the book in its curriculum.
What do you think? Should ‘Persepolis’ be withheld from the junior high curriculum? Sound off in the comments or in the forums.