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Community Members to the Rescue

The quietest dream team in any censorship challenge is usually made up of those community members who support teachers and students. Quiet because they don’t often speak up until the eleventh hour school board meeting (if at all) and dream team because they are the ones who can often help us make the biggest difference for our students’ right to learn.

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HP Kids Read, an exemplary dream team in Highland Park, Texas, have not been quiet. This group has been actively defending these principles for a year in Highland Park, Texas, where book challenges have been the order of the day. The group is

“dedicated to protecting intellectually challenging literature in Highland Park ISD (HPISD) classrooms. We strive to ensure that HPISD puts academic excellence first by enabling teachers to use their expertise in selecting diverse materials that will prepare students for our global world.”

HP Kids speaks up often to the school board, to the principal, to other community members.

Active HP Kids member Lynn Dickinson recently spoke at the University of North Texas Banned Books Week event, explaining what happens during censorship challenges when teachers are second-guessed.

Lynn Dickinson of HP Kids Read
Lynn Dickinson of HP Kids Read

“So we established those 3 “pillars” pretty early on [academic excellence, intellectual freedom, and diverse curricula]. But as the process developed, the disruption created an atmosphere of fear, distrust, and outright disrespect, for teachers. So we began to make another, perhaps more important, realization. If teachers were going to be afraid to use books by certain authors, or on controversial topics, academic excellence and diverse curricula were going to suffer. And censorship would have won through the back door. This “soft censorship” became our main concern. Because we learned that our three pillars, in reality, stood on a foundation that was the teachers. When teachers are threatened, the foundation becomes shaky, and the pillars crumble and fall.” [bold mine]

 

NCTE’s Statement on Censorship and Professional Guidelines is a helpful way to think about the texts you’d like to teach.