Feb. 25, 2014. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) will join members of the Watauga County community, including parents and students, on Thursday, February 27, to speak out against censorship and urge local officials to vote against calls to ban Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” and other literature from the county high school curriculum.
The Watauga County Board of Education will consider a final appeal seeking to remove Allende’s critically acclaimed novel, which appears on statewide reading lists, from the county school curriculum later that evening. Two board-sanctioned committees have previously voted unanimously to keep the book in the curriculum.
“The freedom to read is essential to a healthy democracy,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation. “We’re proud to join students and parents from Watauga County in urging their local officials to do the right thing and not go down the slippery slope of banning books that promote critical thinking and classroom dialogue. We hope Watauga officials will join their peers in Randolph and Brunswick counties who earlier this school year recognized the danger of banning books and in the end voted in favor of the freedom to read.”
WHAT: Community rally and news conference to urge officials to keep “The House of the Spirits” in Watauga County high school honors curriculum, followed by board vote
WHO: Watauga County community members, including parents and students, as well as North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and representatives from the ACLU of North Carolina
WHEN: Thursday, February 27. Rally and news conference will take place at 4 p.m., followed by the board vote at 7 p.m.
WHERE: The rally will take place in the Table Rock Room in the Plemmons Student Union on the campus of Appalachian State University. 263 Locust St, Boone, NC 28608
Mary Kent Whitaker, a former Watauga County “Teacher of the Year,” taught “The House of the Spirits” in her honors sophomore English classes until the challenge was brought this year. Parents already have the option to opt students out of reading Allende’s novel and choosing an alternative.
In January, the Brunswick County Board of Education voted to uphold a decision by the county superintendent to keep Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Color Purple,” as part of the AP high school curriculum after a challenge was brought there. In September 2013, the Randolph County Board of Education voted to reverse an earlier vote banning Ralph Ellison’s literary classic, “Invisible Man,” from Randolph County schools.
On Monday, the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation sent a public records request to the Watauga County Board of Education seeking all communications between board members concerning the challenge to “The House of the Spirits.”
Thursday’s event is co-sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Department of English, the student English Club, and the ASU chapter of the honor society Sigma Tau Delta.
The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the guarantees of individual liberty found in the United States and North Carolina Constitutions and related federal and state civil rights laws. With more than 10,000 members and supporters throughout the state and an office located in Raleigh, the organization achieves its mission through advocacy, public education, community outreach, and when necessary, litigation. Visit acluofnc.org for more information.
For more on the book challenge:
- Feb. 21, 2014: Update: Boone Police Investigates Letters Sent To WHS Teachers Regarding ‘The House of the Spirits’ Novel
- Feb. 10, 2014: School Board Hears From 21 Individuals on Both Sides of Pending Book Challenge at Watauga High School
- Feb. 10, 2014. Tonight’s School Board Meeting Moved To Larger WHS Auditorium, Franklin Graham Joins the Fray
- Jan. 15, 2014. Parent Files Final Appeal for WHS Book Challenge, School Board Expected To Entertain Matter in February
- Dec. 13, 2013: Committee Retains ‘The House of the Spirits’ After Hearing Whitaker, Lesesne at Appeal Thursday
- Dec. 6 2013: Local Book Stores, Libraries See Spike In Demand For ‘The House Of The Spirits’ Since Book Challenge In Oct.
- Dec. 4, 2013: Standing Room Only in Anne Belk Library at ASU for ‘The House of The Spirits’ Teach-In Tuesday Night
- Nov. 27, 2013: Coalition Against Censorship Pens Letter To WCS Book Challenge Review Committee: ‘Retain the Book’
- Nov. 21, 2013: Allende, Author of ‘The House of the Spirits,’ Defends Book, Pens Letter to Watauga School Board, Staff
- Nov. 18, 2013: GOP Commissioners Voice Objections To Watauga School Board Regarding ‘The House of Spirits’ Novel at WHS
- Nov. 8, 2013: Members Selected for Committee To Review Challenge of ‘The House of Spirits’ in Watauga Classroom
- Nov. 6, 2013: Parents Opposed To ‘The House of Spirits’ Speak During School Board Meeting: ‘Not An Issue Of Censorship’
- Nov. 1, 2013: WHS Teachers Defend “The House Of Spirits,” Concerned Parent Moves To File Appeal To Review Committee