New York, NY - July 13, 2018
In a letter to a South Carolina police organization, The Authors Guild demands that they cease interfering in the reading selections of a high school in suburban Charleston.
The police group, the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3, has been pressuring educators at Wando High School to eliminate two novels from a summer reading list: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, books that address issues of race and police violence.
“Attempts at censorship by law enforcement organizations cannot be tolerated in a democracy,” Mary Rasenberger, the Guild’s executive director, said in a letter to the police group. “Educators must be free to choose books on any and all subjects for their students’ reading.”
The police group is objecting to the books because of their treatment of police violence, and the school is currently considering the police objections. The group’s president, John Blackmon, said: “It’s almost an indoctrination of distrust of police and we’ve got to put a stop to that. There are other socio-economic topics that are available, and they want to focus half of their effort on negativity towards the police.”
In a separate letter, the National Coalition Against Censorship, along with the Authors Guild and other organizations, wrote to the Wando High School principal, Sherry Eppelsheimer, encouraging her to disregard the pressure from the police group: “Rather than restrict your reading list, we urge you to instead encourage your students to read diverse viewpoints and engage them in critical discussion about social issues.”
“Let teachers teach,” said Rasenberger. “Local police inserting themselves into pedagogical choices is what you expect in a police state. The very thought of it makes me shudder.”
The books challenged by the police group have won several awards and appeared on The New York Times young adult bestseller list. The Hate U Give, Thomas’s debut novel, published by Balzer & Bray, depicts a fictional shooting of an African-American teenager by a white police officer; Thomas has said it was inspired by the real-life shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA, in 2009. All American Boys, published by Caitlin, tells a story of two teens, one black and one white, affected by an act of police brutality.
Defense of free expression and the First Amendment are core to the Authors Guild’s mission. The Guild and the Coalition often cooperate in opposing attempts to ban books from classes, reading lists, and libraries.
See our letter below.