7 Minute Miles

Happy National Freedom of Speech Week

Posted Thursday, October 19th, 2006 08:32 pm GMT -5 in Personal

This week is National Freedom of Speech Week. Guess how the school my kids go to decided to honor this event? By banning student access to newspapers in the library.

I came home from work and the local NBC affiliate, KARE 11, was running an interview with the school principal, Miles Haugen, as the lead story on the five o’clock newscast. According to the story, the parent of a seven-year-old complained in an e-mail to the school:

  • “[the newspaper is] not appropriate reading material for elementary aged kids. [allowing other students to have continued access] would silently endorse the kids reading them. It’s like leaving a loaded gun on the table. [forbidding my child] to take one will only make the paper a fascinating forbidden fruit. We don’t want (child’s name) exposed to the sex, death and general mayhem that have become the standard fodder for newspapers and TV news. We are not just trying to protect our child but all the kids (child’s name) goes to school with and lives in the world with.”

The newspaper as a loaded gun? Are you kidding me? Thanks for your concern, but I want my kids to become informed, intelligent readers, citizens and learners. Censorship should not be a part of their world.

Mr. Haugen is in his third year as principal and I have respected his leadership. This decision, however, needs to be reconsidered. We plan to contact the superintendent’s office tomorrow and will visit the school when they re-open after MEA week.

If need be, I’ll get both kids their own subscriptions to the paper so they can carry them every day in their backbacks. No reason they should be hindered because of one misdirected individual and a bad decision by the people paid to educate them…DK

UPDATE: Here is the email response I received from Mr. Haugen:

Unfortunately, the KARE11 news story was not accurately reported. Students may continue to read the newspaper at any time during the school day. We just want teachers to be aware of when a student is reading the newspaper and what headlines are found on the newspaper.

Hope this answers your question. I’m sorry about the confusion.

UPDATE 2: The American Library Association has an Office for Intellectual Freedom. They have a challenge database form to report issues of censorship (Adobe Acrobat, 8K).

UPDATE 3: The story has been picked up by the Associated Press and was published in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press this morning. My wife is quoted in that story and a new bit of information was released: the original email complaint offered to “buy a paper for the school that the parent considered child-safe.” Just what my kids need–the Shiny Happy Day News. No thanks…DK

Originally published by DK on October 19, 2006 at 8:32 pm

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