September 27, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado today joined ACLU affiliates across the country in marking the annual observance of Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week is observed annually at the end of September to celebrate the First Amendment and draw attention to the censorship of literature in public schools. This year, the American Association of School Librarians has also designated Sept. 28 to highlight the dangers of software filters that block access to educational websites in schools.
To educate students and adults alike, the ACLU of Colorado posted a crossword puzzle on its website which chronicles attempts nationwide to ban literature and expression.
“We observe Banned Books Week not only as a celebration of artistic expression and the freedom to read, but also to remind all Coloradans that the threat of censorship is still very real,” said John Krieger, ACLU of Colorado Communications and Outreach Director.
The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks books that have been challenged, often by parents of students, to be removed from a public or school library. Classic books such as Brave New World and The Catcher in the Rye, and newer titles, such as the Gossip Girl series and Twilight have been on "challenged" lists for reasons including explicit language, sexual content and violence.
A related issue is software filters, which schools have used to block LGBT content. That violates First Amendment rights to free speech and the Equal Access Act, which requires equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs. This year, the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project brought attention to software filtering through the Don’t Filter Me initiative. The campaign was started after the ACLU received complaints that schools were allowing access to anti-gay sites while simultaneously blocking access to LGBT websites and resources such as the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays.
“Just as schools can't remove books from the library that support LGBT people and their legal rights, schools also cannot use discriminatory web-filtering software that prevents students from accessing supportive websites,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project.
Several schools and software companies agreed to change their settings in response to the initiative, though a lawsuit was recently filed against a school district in Camdenton, Mo., that refused to change its settings.
More information on Banned Books Week can be found at: www.bannedbooksweek.org