South Dakota Middle Schools Pull Graphic Novel

Filed under: In The News

Stuck In The Middle book cover

Credit: Amazon

A school board in South Dakota voted to pull a graphic novel targeted at middle-schoolers from its library shelves, giving teachers access to the book but not students.

Students at two Sioux Falls, S.D. middle schools will no longer be able to check out "Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age" from their school libraries, according to the School Library Journal. The district's school board made the unanimous decision Nov. 9 after complaints from parents about the book's language, sexual references and illustrations showing teenagers smoking.

The book is an anthology of comics from various authors including Daniel Clowes, whose comics inspired the Oscar-nominated movie "Ghost World." It deals with the difficult situations junior-high students face, from dating to friendship, and includes four-letter words and some sexual references.

According to SLJ, Shelly Miller, a mother of a sixth-grader in the district, complained to the Patrick Henry Middle School principal and librarian in August. She then filed a request that the book be restricted to teachers only. A committee made up of teachers, parents, administrators and the district's library coordinator, Ann Smith, reviewed the request. The group recommended to the school board that students no longer be allowed to check out the book.

Book editor Ariel Schrag told SLJ that he understands that parents have the right to decide what their kids read.

"But my intent in editing this book was to help children who might be experiencing some of the things the characters in the book experience-bullying, rejection, acne, depression, etc.-feel less alone," says Schrag in a statement. "The goal was also to let kids who aren't experiencing these things, but who might be engaging in some of these negative behaviors (i.e., the bullies) read the book and think about how kids who are dealing with these problems might feel."

Smith says she believes the decision to yank the book was the right one, and that restricting it -- rather than banning it outright -- was best for the community.

"Most of the [stories] were just fine, and there was no problem," Smith tells SLJ. "There were just a few that we wrestled with and had to determine if they were really age appropriate."

Should schools have the right to restrict books or is it just censorship in disguise?

Related: More on Education


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