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#TBT: Island Trees School District Board of Education v. Pico

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“Do you understand now why books are hated and feared? Because they reveal the pores on the face of life. The comfortable people want only the faces of the full moon, wax, faces without pores, hairless, expressionless.” – Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451.

September 21st-27th is the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week. The ALA is against censorship, a deliberate blocking of access to certain material. It is detrimental to society, a theme that is portrayed in Farenheit 451, the book which the quote above came from. The merits of a free society and unfettered access to all kinds of literature and knowledge are immeasurable. Censorship in school libraries can hurt the educational process of children by restricting what they can and cannot learn and accept to be true or false. The question then becomes: are school libraries even allowed to censor and ban books?

In 1982 the United States Supreme Court decided a case about the banning of books in school libraries. The Island Trees School District Board of Education, acting against the wishes of a committee of parents and school staff, banned certain books from the school libraries in the district because they claimed the books were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy”. Steven Pico brought forward a suit on behalf of several students against the action, claiming that it was against the First Amendment. The Board of Education had originally won in court so Pico appealed. The United States Court of Appeals agreed with Pico and the students, so the Board of Education appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decided that the Board of Education could not ban books from the school library because school libraries were centers for “voluntary inquiry” and learning that were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantees free speech and press. The Board of Education could not remove books based on their own objects to the content in those books. The students of Island Trees School District won an important victory that helped protect their right to access knowledge as well as the right of students all across the United States.




"Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read." American Library Association. American Library Association. Web. 22 July 2014. .

Bradbury, Ray. Farenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print.

"ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION v. PICO." Island Trees School District Board of Education v. Pico. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Web. 21 July 2014. .


Joseph M. Ghabour
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