Issues related to the contents of school libraries and the reading materials in school curricula have been in the news a lot lately. School authorities have considerable discretion in the books they include and which ones they exclude, but that power is not unlimited. It’s possible for school authorities’ choices to cross constitutional limits and represent violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. Free speech cases, like many types of civil cases, can be complex matters requiring detailed knowledge of the law, which is why retaining a knowledgeable Atlanta First Amendment lawyer in your matter is crucial.
One of the most controversial examples occurred to our north in rural Tennessee, where a county school board voted unanimously to remove the book “Maus” by Art Seligman. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book followed the author’s parents through their time in the Auschwitz internment camp. The school board objected to the book’s depictions of suicide, the use of swear words, and an image of nudity as age-inappropriate for eighth-graders.
In Pensacola, Florida, a publisher and some parents used civil litigation to fight back against these sorts of bans. Penguin Random House, several parents, and a free speech nonprofit sued the Escambia County Schools for violating the First Amendment. The lawsuit alleged that school authorities disproportionately used their powers to target works that contained LGBTQ+ issues or dealt with race discrimination.