FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2012
Little Rock, AR - The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas is praising Monday night's decision by the Valley View School Board in Jonesboro, Arkansas to keep the book, The Kite Runner in the 12th grade English curriculum. A substitute teacher had tried unsuccessfully to have the book removed from the classroom on the basis that it contained a homosexual rape scene, profanity, content pertaining to Islamic belief, and lacked Biblical views.
When rebuffed by the school Principal, the substitute teacher went to the school district materials evaluation committee, but the committee unanimously refused to remove the book as well, calling it a teaching tool. The substitute then went to the school board, which at its December 15, 2011 meeting decided to investigate the matter. At least one member of the board agreed the book should be removed and a special meeting was called for January 2, 2012.
An outpouring of support for keeping the book gushed forth from a wide range of the Jonesboro community, including high school seniors, parents, faculty, librarians, and teachers. Among the other interested members of the community was Jonesboro resident and ACLU board member Norm Stafford, who kept the ACLU apprised of the situation. Stafford, who was prepared to serve as spokesperson for the ACLU, joined approximately thirty community members who filled the room at the January 2, 2012 school board meeting. Also attending was ACLU cooperating attorney Bettina Brownstein of Little Rock, who had sent a letter to the school district outlining its objections to removing the book on the grounds that doing so was a violation of the First Amendment protection of free speech.
At the Valley View school board special meeting on January 2, 2012, however, there was no motion to consider overturning the decision of the evaluations committee and the meeting ended: the decision to keep the book was upheld. "Three cheers for school officials and community members for standing up for free speech, and the right of students to have access to ideas," said ACLU of Arkansas executive director Rita Sklar. "The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written to protect the expression of the very ideas that make people uncomfortable, whether it's taxation without representation, or, in this case, non-proselytizing references to the Islamic faith and the abhorrent but true fact that both genders can be victims of rape. Chalk one up for access to ideas and freedom of speech."