Hillsborough County School media specialists present report on whether to ban Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors
Several months ago, two concerned parents emailed the principal of Plant High School, challenging a book listed as suggested reading in a class where juniors and seniors earn college credit.
One of them said his daughter, a junior, is now forever changed because she read Running with Scissors.
“My child has been robbed of some of the innocence of her childhood,” he wrote, “and this can not (sic) be undone.”
After a school board member and district employee joined the parents as complainants, they asked each school to remove the book from circulation and the card catalog.
This alarmed Christine VanBrunt, supervisor of library media services for the district. In one email, she wrote,
“District procedures require that books go through the district’s challenge process before being removed permanently from school media center collections. The challenge process should be completed for this book, so a precedent is not set for removing books without following district procedures. Removing books without following this process could open the door to removing books on a personal and subjective basis rather than by a set of standards.”
Within a few weeks, nine panels convened and voted on a solution. Then the media specialists met this week to present their final report.
Four high schools — Plant, Middleton, Hillsborough, and Bloomingdale — voted to keep the book and place a “Mature Reader” label on the front cover.
Three high schools — Sickles, Robinson, and Lennard — will require parental consent.
Gaither High School and Riverview High School voted to ban the book.
“There are no good guys in this book,” said Jill Driver from Riverview, outlining her panel’s concerns. “There’s a corrupt doctor. No one at the boy’s school, no grownup at all, helped this child. So we felt there was no reason to keep the book.”
A few seconds of silence filled the meeting room.
“That’s exactly why we wanted to keep the book,” said Paula Marczynski from Robinson High. “Why didn’t someone pick up on this? There were so many warning signs. Kids and teachers would have good discussions in different kinds of classes, even psychology classes.”
The final report from Riverview goes further.
“This book has extremely inappropriate content for a high school media center collection. The book contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book.”
Heather Thomas, from Sickles High, brought in a letter from a student who was disappointed that anyone would ban the book and blamed intolerance of homosexuality as the real reason for censorship.
Many of the complaints listed in Robinson High’s report could be levied at other books that remain on high school shelves in Tampa: A Child Called It (extreme moral shortcomings, graphic abuse), Lolita (heterosexual situations, child molesters, pedophilia), and The Catcher in the Rye (profanity, underage drinking and smoking), to name just a few. Yet none of these books were targeted, only Running with Scissors, whose author is gay.
Van Brunt, on several occasions, mentioned that the teachers and administrators must respect the rights of parents.
“The school district works with parents,” she said, time and again.
The report detailing each school’s response will go to the original complainants. If they are unsatisfied, then the entire school board must make the final decision.
Now that the panels’ work is finished, Running with Scissors will be returned to the shelves and “fast-added” back to the catalog at all the affected high schools, except Gaither and Riverview.
The rights of the parents at those two schools aren’t a part of the equation. And those students will have to go elsewhere to read the book.
This is ridiculous...my school is one of two that banned the book; looks like the school board has been reading too much Ray Bradbury or some shit...I was raging so hard when I read this today.