Censorship: What Do School Library Specialists Really Know?
A Consideration of Students' Rights, the Law and Implications for a New Education Paradigm
W. Bernard Lukenbill is Professor, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin.
James F. Lukenbill is Senior Manager, Data/Analytics, Afflicated Computer Services, Austin office.
Censorship of school library collections has risen significantly in the last few decades, and such attacks are increasing. American courts have ruled that students in schools have First Amendment rights and some degree of freedom of speech. Courts also have ruled that students have the right to information and to learn and discuss issues of importance within the context of their schools and libraries. This study sought to determine the knowledge levels of a sample of school librarians concerning what they know about and how they support important court rulings that affect students' First Amendment rights. The study also sought to determine predictive behaviors of these librarians in protecting students' First Amendment rights. Basically the study found that the level of knowledge concerning legal rulings is low, but that school librarians in principle support students' rights to information, and that they are willing to advocate for those rights within the confines of their positions. Data also revealed that certain personal and demographic characteristics determine predicative behaviors. The study concludes with suggestions for redefining school librarianship education, emphasizing school library media specialists' professional responsibility to understand freedom of speech issues, laws, and court rulings.
Introduction | Review of Literature Related School Library Media Censorship | Research Problem and Questions | Methods | Findings | Discussion | Support for Findings | Reforming the Educational Paradigm | Conclusion | Tables and Figures | Appendix | Works Cited
Censorship has been with society since ancient times; and librarianship itself has not escaped the urge to censor and control what is read. Social critic Jonathon Green (1990) writes that it was only with the adoption of the "Library Bill of Rights" in 1939 that the profession becomes officially more liberal in its views of censorship and the protection of intellectual freedoms. Publications and conferences by the American Library Association (ALA) and the profession as a whole continue to support this professionally progressive concept of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom (Censorship Litigation and the Schools 1983; Jones 1999; Lord 2005; Peck 2000; ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom 2005; Symons and Reed 1999; Woodward 1990).
In society at large, the war of terrorism has also introduced new concerns about freedom of speech and communication in line with protecting national and international security. New directives from the American federal government on enemy combatants, surveillance of private communication, and provisions of 2006 USA PATRIOT Act and its expansion have added greatly to the ongoing discussion regarding the right to privacy, protection under the law, and freedom of speech and communication rights. Further complicating these issues facing school library media specialists is a 2007 government challenge to Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (393 U.S. 503) in Morse et. al. v. Frederick (Greenhouse 2007), and in March 2007 in ACLU v. Gonzales a lower court rejected the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA). This court ruled that the law was unconstitutional because of its broadness and its effects on limiting free speech (People for the American Way 2007).
Censorship and removal of materials from school library collections has risen significantly in recent decades (Doyle 2004). The Internet, its growth, and the attempts by the American federal government through legislation to control the types of materials made available to youth through school and public libraries by Internet transmission has expanded this pressure. Consequentially, censorship of school library collections has become a matter for public and legal policy debate (Simmons and Dresang 2001). This, in turn, has implications for new ways or paradigms of educating school librarians to deal with their professional and legal responsibilities to protect the intellectual freedom and First Amendment rights of youth and to ensure that they have free access to information.
In the United States, the increasing body of legal theories, legal literature, and some court decisions in recent decades as will be discussed in this study have added to the complexity of school library collection development and the responsibilities of librarians by widening the concept of the United States Constitution's Free Speech Clause. Although the majority of this study deals with American issues, free speech and access to information is not limited only to the United States, but involves Canada and other free democratic societies as well. In the United States, freedom of speech and access to information concerns are exacerbated through the introduction of a number of legal issues and concepts regarding youth and their rights. These include: "right to receive information," "the right to receive information by mature minors independent of parents," "viewpoint discrimination," "content bias" "content neutral decisions," "content-based regulations," "the library as a government created ‘public forum,'" forbidding schools to "impose orthodoxy in matters of opinions" while still allowing the "inculcating [of] values," "government speech, "government as educator," "educational speech," and "strict scrutiny [constitutional review] standards" (Simmons and Dresang 2001; Ross 1999; Bezanson and Buss 2001). In a legal sense, the term "government" means a state-mandated system of social control with the power to make and enforce laws, set policies, educate, and give directions. Along with this enforcement power comes the right to educate, encourage acceptance of policies, and to guide (U.S.Law 2007). All these legal concepts influence the development of school library collections and offer direction for the roles and behaviors of school librarians, administrators, and school governing boards.
These developments seem to imply that all American librarians, including school librarians, will be required in the future to become more assertive in their professional responsibilities to protect the free speech rights of their users. Although not a new responsibility, we must now ask how knowledgeable and prepared are librarians to assume this important task in terms of their judicial knowledge and in collateral sense their understanding of the American Constitution? Coupled with that question is the parallel question of how well prepared are they to undertake this task based on their professional education?
Purpose of the Study
This study has two major objectives. First, it seeks to understand the level of judicial knowledge that a sample of Texas school library media specialists (school librarians) held regarding basic federal court rulings and the effects that these rulings have regarding censorship of school library media materials. Second, it attempts to assess how they, as librarians, perceive their likely behaviors to be regarding their obligations to follow law and act to protect students' First Amendment rights and facilitate students' right to receive information. Although the sample was drawn from Texas school librarians, because of the widespread similarity of school library culture and values, findings from this study would appear to have wide application. This study also will consider the implications based on the findings of this, and other similar studies, of the necessity for a reformation of some elements of the current paradigm for the education of school librarians so that more systematic attention is given to First Amendment issues.
Court Rulings Concerning School Library Media Center Censorship
Court rulings that affect school library collections include Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (393 U.S. 503), where in 1969 the Supreme Court recognized that students hold First Amendment rights, but a school board for good cause, based on conduct that is disruptive to work and discipline of the school, can place limits on those rights.
This ruling was attacked by the federal government in March 2007 in Morse and the Juneau School Board et al. v. Frederick (06-278). The government's argument as presented to the U. S. Supreme in March 2007 was that a school board can place restrictions on certain areas of speech within a school environment. In this case it involved a statement by a student seemingly in support of drugs. During a public celebration, a student displayed, off campus but across the street from the school, a fourteen-foot sign reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The government claimed that illegal drugs and glorification of the drug culture as exhibited by the sign display was not constitutionally protected. Some of the jurists on the Court questioned just how far a school board could go in determining what was proper speech within the context of s school and the school's social mission (Greenhouse 2007).
In 1972 in Presidents Council, District 25 v. Community School Board No. 25 (457 F 2d 289), a U.S. court of appeals upheld the rights of a school board to remove Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas from libraries in the district. This court saw no infringements on First Amendment rights of students and considered that the board had acted in its role as guardian of public education. This ruling was important because it gave much power to local school authorities to control the contents of library collections. Later, a different court took another line of reasoning when it stated in Minarcini v. Stongsville City School District (541 F 2d 577) that the school board had overstepped its authority when it ordered the removal of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle from its school libraries. This court saw the school library as a storehouse of knowledge and a privilege that had been created for students by the state, and that such a right could not be taken away from them through the removal of books based on the board's displeasure with them.
Shortly thereafter, in Right to Read Defense Committee v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea (454 F Supp. 703), a federal court ruled that the board had no right to remove Male and Female Under Eighteen: Frank Comments from Young People about Their Sex Roles, edited by Nancy Larrick and Eve Merriam, from the school library. In this ruling, the court stated that the school board did not have an absolute right to remove books from the library; that there were good public policy reasons for the school board not to have unquestioned power to censor; and that students have a right to read and to be exposed to controversial thoughts and language. This court held that such rights were subject to First Amendment protection.
In 1982, the United States Supreme Court handed down an important ruling concerning the removal of books from school libraries. Board of Education, Island Trees, New York v. Pico (457 U.S. 853, 867 ) is considered one of the most important cases directly involving school libraries to reach the U. S. Supreme Court. The argument brought to the Court on March 2, 1982, involved a situation in which the Board of Education of the Island Trees School District in New York's Long Island area had removed several books from a high school library in the district without consideration of existing school policy. The central question presented to the Court was:
Can a school board remove books from a school library in promoting moral, social, and political values and be consistent with the First Amendment?
Issues raised by this question centered on the motivation of the school board and the students' rights to receive information. In a 5-4 decision (a plurality), the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs by declaring that a board of education cannot simply remove books because of the ideas, values, and opinions expressed in them.
In this ruling, the Court defined the right of students to receive ideas and the right to learn as an "inherent corollary of rights of free speech and press," and it affirmed the right to receive information in a number of contexts. Through this ruling, students became beneficiaries of First Amendment rights ensuring access to information in school libraries. Pico further gives support to students' right to learn from materials already available, and it lends approval to such educational goals as encouraging individual autonomy and the appreciation of diverse points of view. As such, the ruling protects against the removal of books based on ideological content (Van Geel 1983).
Nonetheless, the Court did allow books to be removed by boards of education for sound educational reasons and for legitimate purposes of limiting students' exposure to vulgarity. Nevertheless, the board's reasons for removal of books from libraries must be based on educational grounds that, if challenged, must stand up under court review.
Writing in the Texas Law Review in 1983, Van Geel (1983) outlined some of the issues and judicial conflicts and interpretations that faced the court in deciding this case. For example, the justices at both the Supreme Court and in lower courts had to face the three basic points:
- the students' rights regarding freedom of belief;
- the rationale for the government's desire to indoctrinate students; and
- the role of the judiciary in protecting First Amendment rights within the context of public education.
In an earlier ruling, the Supreme Court had recognized and protected students' rights to free speech and had insisted that schools remain a marketplace of ideas rather than an institution to foster a homogenous nation. The Court also had insisted that public school official cannot impose a "pall of orthodoxy" on the classroom (Van Geel 1983).
On the other hand, both the Supreme Court and lower court rulings had likewise recognized the legitimate function of public schools to properly inculcate students. Such indications from the courts give support to those who wish to have the rights of school authorities enforced and protected in overseeing policies and procedures, such as the selection of materials for classrooms and libraries (Van Geel 1983).
First Amendment rights and challenges to government officials' decisions to remove materials from a school library could not be easily approached by the Court in Pico using the traditional means of resolving First Amendment conflicts. The central test presented to the Court was whether an order by a governing board to remove books is based on reasonableness and legitimate pedagogical concerns. The Pico decision also underscored the Court's view that students not only have a right to receive information, but also to learn and to be taught.
Although the Court was clear to say that this ruling concerned only the removal of books from a school library by a board, it did present other constitutional issues. The role of government in restraining free speech of individuals is not clear or obvious when government refuses to purchase a book for a library. As mentioned earlier, with Pico and other rulings, the Court indicated that governmental boards may not prescribe orthodoxies to be adhered to within a school by the withdrawal of unacceptable books from a school library. The removal of books from libraries may be challenged on this, as well on grounds that such removal is a violation of the right to receive information. The selection and acquisition of materials also might be challenged if it is clear that the refusal to purchase certain items is a clear and persistent practice that in effect prevents certain ideas from being made available to students. Courts have recognized that a school cannot buy all books or materials relating to a topic or idea, and that officials must make decisions about what will be acquired, but Pico implied that constitutional rights have been violated if it can be shown that a persistent pattern of refusal to purchase certain types of materials is present. Records of selection decisions and official selection policies can possibly be used by courts in deciding whether unconstitutional practices have been systematically practiced (Van Geel 1983).
In line with rulings in Pico, Van Geel (1983) argued that to test whether government has impinged upon First Amendment rights of free speech, courts must consider the motives of boards when they refuse to allow the purchase of materials, and whether those motives present governmental restraint on the right of free speech for private individuals (Munic 1983). Courts also have implied that if a book has been removed from a library and as a result of this removal students cannot gain access to the book through other means, then in effect they have been denied access to this material and their constitutional rights may have been violated (Van Geel 1983).
Pico is now a legal standard set by the Supreme Court that lower courts follow in their determination of whether students' First Amendment rights regarding library collections have been violated, although for some years after the ruling, some observers felt that the educational justification for removal of books from libraries was so broad or "camouflaged" that the ruling would be of little help in the fight against school library censorship (Dorrell and Busch 2000). Nevertheless, the influence of Pico has slowly begun to appear in court rulings and legal reviews relating to both school libraries and other information access issues.
In 1995, a federal District Court found that the school board of the Unified School District no. 233 in Kansas had violated the First Amendment rights of its students by ordering the removal of Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden from a school library in the district ( Case v. Unified School District No. 233, 908 F Supp. 864, 1995). The court ruled, based on Pico, that books may be removed if they are "pervasively vulgar" or lacking in "educational suitability," but it is unconstitutional to do so if such removal will deny student access to ideas with which school officials disagree. In this case, school board members claimed that the book was removed by board vote because it was "educationally unsound," but testimony in the four-day trail convinced the court that the board had violated First Amendment rights because the court found considerable evidence of "viewpoint discrimination" on the part of the board. The court reasoned that the board had interpreted "educational unsoundness" to mean anything "other than their own disagreement with the ideas expressed in the book." The book in question had received numerous literary recognitions, including being selected by ALA as one of the Best of the Best books for young adults. This judgment against the school district cost them more than $85,000 in court costs and fees (Munic 1983; Recent cases briefly noted 1996).
Pico was cited in Monteiro v. The Tempe Union High School District (159 F/3d 1022 U.S. App.) in considering whether the classroom use of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the school district. The court wrote that Pico was particularly helpful in identifying First Amendment issues involved in the case. The court noted that that the "function of books and other literary materials ... is to stimulate thought, to explore ideas, to engender intellectual exchanges." The reasoning used in Pico also was cited by the federal court of the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, in 2003, when ordering the Harry Potter series of books to be placed back on the shelves of Cedarville School District school libraries after their removal by the school board of that school system ( Counts v. Cedarville School District 2003).
Pico continues to be discussed in legal literature regarding the role of government in controlling access to information and freedom of speech for youth (Blitz 2006; Dailey 2006; Koenigsberg 2006; Peltz 2005).
Legal Considerations and the Rights of Youth
Legal opinions and analyses are important in the study of censorship because they can inform courts of developing issues, problems, and consensus within the legal community regarding question of constitutional law. Some of this reasoning and literature appears in the theoretical section of this discussion. Black (1980) analyzed censorship laws and regulations, prohibited books, and school library censorship. Bryson and Detty (1982) wrote at length about censorship occurring in public school libraries and with instructional materials, outlining some of the important legal questions that courts have had to deal. In the course of addressing academic freedom of library professionals, student's right to have access to library holdings, and the shelf-life of library materials, Cole (1985) identified significant problems presented by court cases involving censorship in secondary school libraries and discussed their resolutions by courts. Davenport-Binetsch (1983) presented case notes involving Pico. Donelson (1972) defended the rights of students to read as viewed by teachers of English. Dunn (1985) wrote about the implications of the Pico ruling and its effects on school library censorship. Prior to the Pico ruling, Harpaz (1981) discussed at length the constitutional dilemmas involving public school library censorship arguments and considered a paradigm for solution. Kaiser (2000) reviewed the impact of filtering on constitutional rights. Kamiat (1983) considered Pico in terms of its role in defining state indoctrination, the non-state voice in public education and the need to limit censorship of school library materials. Niccolai (1981), before the Pico ruling, wrote about the constitutional problems presented by school library censorship and its interference with free speech and the right to read. O'Neil (1981) considered the problem of school censorship from a broad context as it affected students, parents, teachers, administrators, librarians, and the general community Writing just after Pico, Quenemoen (1983) outlined the implications of Pico and noted the its apparent limitations. Roy (2005) considered the influence of inculcation, bias, and viewpoint discrimination in public school education. Sanders (1999) wrote about legal issues involved with indecent material available to children through the Internet. Yudof (1984) analyzed general legal issues involved in the selection of library books in public schools.
School Library Media Censorship
The literature of school library media censorship is vast, diverse, complex in its issues and frames of references, and raises many social, cultural, and political questions. Alexander and Miselis (2006) considered the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth to have materials in school libraries addressing their issues and the inhibiting effects of censorship on those needs. Beck (1987) studied the constitutional rights of students as reflected by the Burger court. Borowiak (1983) addressed censorship of both textbooks and library materials in Illinois public high schools. Bracy (1982) investigated the influence of school library selection policies on censorship and how policies were used to defend items under challenge. Bringelson (2005) considered censorship issues in Canadian school libraries. Bump (1980) studied the influence of prior censorship of items on librarians' selection behaviors. Burns (2001) investigated school board member perception of students' First Amendment rights concerning the selection of library materials. Callison (1991) reviewed the research literature on school libraries, including censorship and made suggestions regarding a research agenda. Chandler (1985) studied administrators' perception of intellectual freedom of elementary school students and the use of trade books in the elementary school. Coley (2002) examined collections of school library media collections in Texas to determine the nature of their holdings in an attempt to determine the degree of self-censorship by librarians. He concluded that more self-censorship appeared to occur in smaller schools, His work also included a discussion of the literature on censorship in school libraries, including early studies and commentaries by Woods and Salvatore (1981) and Woodworth (1976).
Detty (1981) studied legal and court decisions affecting school libraries. Douma (1973) looked at book selection policies and their relationship to censorship in Michigan schools. Fiedler (1998) surveyed censorship experiences of North Carolina school library media specialists. Fiehn and Roman (2006) surveyed censorship actions in school library media programs in Illinois. Fisher (2004) reviewed Internet censorship in elementary school library media centers. Fiske's (1959) study of censorship in school and public libraries in California now adds historical perspective to the development of censorship. Harger (2006) discussed the conflict she experienced with her school principle concerning censorship. Harney (2002) noted in her study of school of library and information science students that students who were studying to be school library media specialists tended to favor censoring Web content more than other types of students. Henry (2000) provided a brief but revealing overview of censorship in American school libraries. Herumin (2004) considered censorship, the Internet, and filtering and its impact on freedom of speech. Hopkins (1983; 1989; 1990; 1991; 1993a; 1993b; 1995; 1196a; 1996b; 1998; 2003) explored censorship in practice as well as theory in her substantial set of writings from 1983 through 2003. Horton (1986) analyzed the content of seventy-five young adult novels that could present selection problems for school librarians because they contained factors often subject to challenges by censors.
Johnson (1998) questioned whether librarians should limit access to the Internet by using filters and considered such options as self-regulation and acceptable use policies. Jones (1991) reviewed several court cases involving school library censorship issues and concluded that school librarians had a responsibility to help students understand the need to protect their own intellectual freedoms. Jones (2006) considered sexuality in young adult literature and censorship issues. Kravitz (2002) provided a complete discussion on many aspects of censorship in school libraries, including its history, case law, and reasons for censorship. McDonald (1989) considered intellectual freedom and censorship attitudes of secondary school librarians based on principles of moral reasoning. McGary (1989) conducted a content analysis of court cases that involved school library materials and First Amendment issues. McMillan (1987) studied censorship in high schools in Virginia. Paysinger (1983) considered case law relating to library and other materials used in American public education. Peck and Symons (1997) discussed the Internet in relation to First Amendment rights of children and access to Internet content. Person (1998) examined many aspects of censorship within school library communities, claiming that there is a silence about self-imposed censorship and that a clearly written selection policy can alleviate much of this.
Roberts (1996) surveyed censorship practices in Saskatchewan, Canada. Vrabal (997) researched the perception of Texas school librarians of censorship and intellectual freedom, and Waits (1995) studied the characteristics and impact of censors' attempts on school library collections in Oklahoma. Saykanic (2000) gave a detailed account of the many questions involved in school library censorship, including reasons for censorship, stressing the importance of understanding the social, cultural, and political processes involved in censorship.
Schrader (1999) described emerging issues involved in Internet access and discussed software products, how to rate content, reader-response theory in relation to filtering, the rating of Internet content, and the role of the librarians in developing acceptable use policies. Shupala (2006) surveyed Texas school librarians and principals regarding their concepts of freedom of speech and school library censorship, finding a difference in how the two groups viewed the issued. Torke (1975) studied the availability of sex education books in Colorado high school libraries. Tyler-Porter (1997) investigated administrators' attempts to censors both text and library materials in Georgia schools. Truett (1997) wrote about censorship and the Internet, placing her discussion in the context of the important laws, professional directives, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the free flow of information in a democratic society. Van Meter (1991) described a national survey designed to determine the difficulty of finding controversial materials such as child abuse, homosexuality, and incest in school library media centers. Vrabel (1997) studied Texas school librarian's perception of censorship and intellectual freedom.
Zirkel and Gluckman (1997), addressing principals, considered important court rulings regarding censorship and reaffirmed that school administrators could not summarily suppress books of a controversial nature by their simple removal, stating that such removal must be defended and based on established procedures.
Surveys and reports of censorship in school and public libraries are periodically conduced by the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Library Association (1996-), the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (2007a), and the Oregon State Library (1987-). Doyle (2003; 2004) reported on books banned in Illinois during 2002-2003 and developed a guide for dealing with books censored in 2004.
Selected Reference Sources on Censorship
Reference sources are helpful in understanding censorship because they present succinct overviews and facts and indicate trends in society. Important reference sources on censorship include ALA's publications Intellectual Freedom for Children: The Censor Is Coming (ASLC Intellectual Freedom Committee 2000), the Intellectual Freedom Manual (ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom 2002), and the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom (ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom 1952-). Attacks on the Freedom to Learn by the People for the American Way (1982/83-) is another important guide to censorship. Other helpful reference guides include Censorship: A World Encyclopedia edited by Jones (2001); The Encyclopedia of Censorship by Green (2005); Index on Censorship published since 1972 by the Writers & Scholars International (1972-), which traces censorship occurrences around the world; and The Library's Legal Answer Book by Minow and Lipinski (2003).
The central problem regarding school library censorship in this study was to determine the level of judicial knowledge held by a sample of Texas school librarians concerning an elected group of court rulings that affect school library collections; and to determine what their predictive behaviors might be when faced with censorship attempts. The following research questions were asked in this study:
- What is the level of judicial knowledge concerning important court rulings relating to censorship among school librarians both prior to and including Pico?
- Do librarians agree with the major rulings announced by the Supreme Court in Pico?
- Do selected personal and demographic characteristics of librarians have any effect on librarians concerning their behavior and attitudes about censorship in their schools (personal characteristics; school characteristics, location of school, Texas Education Agency [TEA] standings, library collection characteristics, perception of administrators knowledge about censorship court rulings)?
- What are their personal feelings about the necessity to inform administrators about Pico?
- Do they expect support from administrators in censorship disputes?
- How will they accept orders to remove item(s) from a collection?
- How willingly are they to turn for help outside the school system when ordered to remove item(s) from a collection?
A secondary reason for this research, and one that is suggested by the vast amount of literature devoted to these issues and informed by the possible findings of this and other similar studies, is to consider a reformation of the paradigm of education for school library media specialists whereby more attention is given to the need to protect the rights of youth, to better understand constitutional law, and to view the school library media center in the context of its role as an open forum for debate in American society.
Development of the Questionnaire
A questionnaire was developed especially for this study to answer the research questions stated above (see appendix 1). The questionnaire was divided into three sections. Section I asked for demographic identification (for example, age and gender) and school and community environment. Section II gathered information about censorship challenges, including knowledge of court rulings affecting censorship and potential behaviors that librarians might take if and when confronted with censorship situations. Section III allowed for personal comments. The questionnaire was reviewed by several groups of librarians and graduate students in a class in school library administration. Based on comments, the questionnaire was revised.
Two reliability measurement scales were created for the present study. The first scale, called the judicial awareness questions, included questions 17 through 21. The Cronbach Coefficient alpha of this scale was .81. The second scale constructed combined questions concerned with predictive behaviors and consisted of questions 24 through 31. The alpha level of this scale was .71. Both of these scales exceeded the commonly accepted reliability threshold of .60 for research instruments.
Population and Sample
The questionnaire was mailed in late February 2002 to public school librarians in Texas Education Service Center XIII located in central Texas. Region XIII is one of twenty Education Service Centers established by the state of Texas to provide a variety of educational support systems and resources to member schools throughout Texas. Region XIII is located in the central part of the state and serves sixteen counties. Its service area includes fifty-nine school districts, sixteen charter schools, and seven institutions of higher education. This area includes many rural towns and villages, several smaller-sized cities, and one large city of approximately 600,000 population. This service region includes one U. S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
Region XIII has a variety of school and library situations, ranging from small school districts having only one school campus with none or, at best, one library serving K-12, to districts having multiple campuses and many libraries. Through the Region XIII directory, 407 appropriate schools were identified. In order to ensure organizational consistency focused on public schools serving general populations, private, parochial, and charter schools, as well as schools serving special populations, such as juvenile detention schools, and schools for the hearing-and sight-impaired, were excluded. Schools that were difficult to identify in terms of populations served also were eliminated.
The questionnaire was mailed to a 71 percent stratified random sample consisting of 294 librarians. A return of 51 percent (N=150) was received. As much as possible, efforts were made to address the questionnaires directly to librarians by name in the sample schools. In order to gain as much coverage as possible, all sample schools were sent questionnaires regardless of whether a librarian could be identified by name.
Description of the Participants: Age, Gender, Education, and Certification Levels
The average age of the participants was fifty, with a range of ages thirty to sixty-nine. There were 136 women (93 percent), and nine (6 percent) men. Of the sample, 104 (70 percent) held master's degrees; thirty-nine (26 percent) bachelor's degrees; three (2 percent) held doctor's degrees, and two (1 percent) had high school or less education. (Those with high school or less education were likely clerks or teacher's aids that were given responsibility for the school library and responded to the questionnaire.) The highest level of school library certification (the Learning Resources Certification) was held by eighty-three (57 percent) of the sample, the second-highest certification level (the endorsement level) was held by thirty-nine (26 percent) of respondents; three (2 percent) were studying toward certification; and one (<1 percent) held emergency certification.
Description of Environment: Schools and Library Collections
The largest representation of schools in terms of size was for schools having 501 to 1,000 students (N=76, 51 percent), with the smallest having as many as two hundred (N=2, 1 percent). Schools located in suburban and mostly rural areas predominated the sample returns (N=110, 74.2 percent). Most school districts of respondents were rated as "Recognized and/or Academically Acceptable" (N=122, 87.2 percent) by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), while sixteen (11 percent) were "Exemplary" by TEA. The majority of schools in the individual school returns were ranked by TEA as either Recognized (N=60, 43 percent) or Acceptable (N=49, 35 percent). Thirty schools (21 percent) received "Exemplary" ranking, and two schools (1 percent) were ranked as "Low Performing" by TEA.
Most library collections ranged from 10,001 to 20,000 volumes (N=71, 47 percent), with nineteen (13 percent) having 20,001 or more volumes. Eighty-six (57 percent) librarians considered their libraries to be a multimedia collection, while sixty-four (43 percent) viewed their collections as largely print-based. The vast majority of respondents (N=146, 97 percent) reported that they had access to the Texas Library Collection (TLC)--a large state-supported school library consortium that, at the time of the study, supported a variety of library services, including interlibrary loan and the sharing of catalog records and information databases--and 149 (99 percent) offered access to the Internet. In terms of expenditures, a slight majority (N=76, 51 percent) reported a budget of from $5,001 to $15,000 per year. Forty-one (27 percent) had budgets of more than $15,000).
Perception of Community by Librarians
For the most part, librarians in the sample perceived the community in which their schools were located to be conservative (N=68, 46 percent) or moderate (N=43, 30 percent). Communities ranked as either extremely conservative (N=12, 8 percent) or liberal (N=17, 12 percent) were in the minority. Table 1 gives descriptive information about schools and library collections and perception of community by librarians.
In this category of 150 responses, eighty-one respondents reported that they had never had a challenge to materials within the last year (54 percent), while only four (2.7 percent) indicated that they often experienced censorship challenges. Table 2 presents these data.
Awareness of Censorship Court Rulings
Respondents were presented a list of several important court rulings and asked to indicate their knowledge or awareness of these. These court rulings included Miller v. California (413 U.S. 15), which is considered the definitive censorship ruling handed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Other selected court rulings that affect materials in library collections in the inquiry included Tinker v. the Des Moines (Iowa) School District (393 U.S. 503); President Council, District 25 v. Community School Board No. 25 (457 F. 2d 289); Right to Read Defense Committee of Chelsea (Massachusetts) v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea (454 F. Supp, 703); and The Board of Education Island Trees, New York v. Pico (457 .U.S. 853).
Of 149 responses, 103 (69 percent) reported that they had never heard of Miller v. California, while ten (7 percent) reported that they had a general concept of its importance. No librarians reported that they knew and understood it well. Similar findings were found for court rulings that affected school library collections: Tinker v. Des Moines; President Council v. Community School Board; and Right to Read v. School Committee of City of Chelsea. Table 3 gives these data.
Knowledge of and Support of Pico
Pico is the only case involving school library collections to have reached the Supreme Court. For this reason, subjects were asked about their awareness of it and (based on a brief description of the Court's ruling provided in the questionnaire) whether they agreed with the Court's findings. Of 147 responses, eighty-two (55 percent) stated that they had never heard of it, while two (1.3 percent) indicated that they knew and understood it well. Librarians generally agreed with the Court's ruling. Twenty-eight (19 percent) of 147 responses supported the ruling completely; sixty-one (42 percent) generally agreed with the concepts of the ruling; and forty-three (29.3 percent) stated that they were in agreement with its concepts. This is an agreement rate of 90.3 percent. (Note: The "generally agree" response indicates that all things being equal, they can support the ruling.) See table 4.
Librarians were also asked whether they felt that their school administrators (principals and superintendents) were aware of Pico. Of 136 librarians responding, sixty-four (47 percent) indicated that their administrators had limited knowledge of Pico. Repeats previous sentence with different figures; thirty-four (25 percent) stated that their administrators were generally aware of the case; and seven (5.2 percent) believed that administrators had a good understanding of it. Thirty-one (22.8 percent) felt that their administrators had no knowledge of Pico. See table 4.
Behaviors and Support in Censorship Challenges
The next series of questions asked librarians to hypothetically consider how they might behave in the following censorship situations: having to explain Pico to administrators; perception of support from administrators in censorship challenges; how they might react if ordered to remove item(s) from their library collections by a school board; and what outside sources of help might they turn to if they could not accept an order to remove item(s) from their collections.
Of 148 responses, a majority indicated that they would not feel threatened if they were called upon to explain Pico to their administrators (N=125, 84 percent), while only twenty-four (16 percent) indicated that they would feel some level of threat. Most librarians also felt that their administrators would offer some level of support to them if they were faced with a censorship challenge (N=134, 91 percent). Only fourteen (9.5 percent) felt that they would not be supported. Table 5 provides these data.
Based on 148 responses, a majority (N=124, 84 percent) indicated they would accept an order to remove items from their collections if ordered to do so by their boards; however a large majority of these would accept the order with some level of reluctance (N=141, 95 percent). Only 7 (5 percent) indicated that they would accept a removal order without question. Twenty-four (16 percent) stated that they would challenge or dispute the order and present evidence of legal problems that might arise from the removal. Table 6 gives response categories.
Seeking Outside Help and Selected Sources of Outside Help
Respondents were asked to react to the following list of possible outside sources of help if they did not agree with an order to remove item(s) from their library collections: parents, Texas Library Association (TLA); American Library Association (ALA), the local or regional chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and personal legal counsel. Based on from 134 to 150 individual responses to these source questions, collectively subjects gave 292 (45 percent) negative responses, indicating that they would not turn to the named sources for outside help, while 361 (55 percent) gave positive responses, suggesting that they would turn to the named sources for help.
Parents were not selected as sources of help by respondents (N=150). Ninety-nine (66 percent) rejected parents as useful sources, while fifty-two (35 percent) accepted parents. Subjects (N=150) considered TLA (N=122, 95 percent) and ALA (N= 116, 78 percent) a primary source of help.
Of 148 responses, fifty-seven (39 percent) would accept help from ACLU, while ninety-one (61 percent) would not. Based on 134 responses, personal legal counsel as outside help was supported by seventy-two (54 percent) subjects, while sixty-two (46 percent) did not support personal legal counsel. See table 7.
A multiple regression analysis was used to determine the positive reaction of librarians in the sample to resisting a collection challenge. This analysis used the composite variable reaction as the dependent variable predicted by the subjects' education level, certification level, the amount spent on collection development, the perception of the community, and the judicial awareness composite variable. As shown in table 8, this regression was significant at the p< .0001 level. The positive predictor variables were able to account for 19 percent of the variance in the reaction of librarians to a collection challenge. The most influential positive variable in the equation was the amount spent on the collection. The other variables (such as education attained, levels of certification, perception of community, and judicial awareness) in the model appeared to have equal influence on the positive reaction of the librarian to resist censorship challenges. See table 8.
Only five personal comments were received by respondents. These generally reflected personal experiences with censorship and perception of censorship. All comments were positive regarding the need to protect the collection from censorship challenges.
Issues surround the freedom of speech issues and censorship of school library materials is complex as it involves social, political, and cultural values and expectations. As Burns (2001) noted in her study, there is tension and conflict in school environments where, under American constitutional law, students' First Amendments rights of free speech must be protected while at the same time an orderly educational and learning environment and structure must be maintained by school boards acting under the authority of government. Among others, this complexity involves ideology concerning the constitutional role of government, federal laws, state statutes, and local school board policies, including library materials review and removal procedures.
Acting as government agencies, local schools boards in the United States fulfill legislative, executive, and judicial roles in their decision-making capacities (Burns 2001). Burns noted that community standards, expectations, and values regarding proper behavior and conduct in society and pressures placed on school boards to maintain certain standards and expectations are important in defining the role of censorship of school library materials.
The population of school librarians surveyed was drawn from a 71 percent stratified random sample of 407 schools located in an educational service center located in central Texas. The service area is comprised of sixteen counties and represents small and large schools as well rural and metropolitan population areas. A 51 percent (N=150) return of usable questionnaires was obtained. The sample and response appeared to be reflective of the study population.
Frequency and percentage data suggest that school librarians in this survey were not well-informed regarding federal court rulings on school library censorship. This may imply that they may not completely understand students' First Amendment rights of free speech and students' rights to receive information. This lack of knowledge includes awareness of Pico, the important Supreme Court ruling that defined and set limits on the power of school boards in removing items from school library collections. When given the opportunity to consider the basic reasoning of the Court regarding Pico, librarians generally agreed with the Court. Findings in this study suggest that higher levels of education and librarian certification, higher levels of money spent of collection development, perception of a more liberal community, and higher levels of awareness regarding court rulings pertaining to school library censorship promoted a more proactive attitude to resist censorship. Based on principles of moral reasoning, McDonald (1989) found that higher levels of education, service in larger size schools, service in higher grade levels, and membership in national and state associations suggested more acceptance of intellectual freedom principles and more positive attitudes in terms of resisting censorship. McDonald also noted that there was more acceptance of intellectual freedom principles than with actual application.
Librarians generally felt that they would not feel threatened in having to explain Pico and its implications to their administrators. They also felt that their administrators would offer support to them in a censorship complaint. Vrabel (1997) likewise found in a study of Texas school librarians that administrators supported librarians involved in censorship challenges.
Based on a series of hypothetical questions, a large majority in the survey stated that they would accept, with reluctance, an order from their school boards to remove items from their collections. Sixteen percent indicated that they would challenge such orders and present evidence of legal problems that could arise from a removal order. Only a small minority indicated that they would remove an item without question.
When asked hypothetically to what outside sources of help might they turn if they did not agree with a removal order and wanted to resist it, librarians saw parents as being of little help to them and would not turn to them for help. This may not be surprising, as Chandler (1985) and Vrabel (1997) discovered that parents instigated the majority of external censorship complaints. Chandler also found that librarians accounted for most of the internal school censorship challenges to materials. Participants viewed TLA and ALA as primary sources of help when faced with censorship attempts. This is somewhat surprising, as rarely do these associations offer help directly to individual librarians involved in censorship challenges. Nevertheless, these associations do offer guidance through their philosophical stance and publication programs. On the other hand, librarians in the survey would not turn for help to ACLU, an organization that has a history of direct involvement at the local level in First Amendment disputes. By only a slight majority, participants would turn to private legal counsel. Vrabel (1997) also found that few librarians sought help from community or professional organizations when faced with censorship attempts.
Analysis of variance indicated that levels of education, types of certification, level of monetary support for collection development, perception about the local community, and judicial awareness of court rulings were important indicates of school librarians understanding of broad censorship issues (see table 8). Hopkins (1983; 1989; 1990; 1991; 1993a; 1993b; 1995; 1196a; 1996b; 1998; 2003) reported similar findings, indicting that censorship continues to be an unresolved influence in school environments.
Based on some of the issues mentioned above, the present study sought to develop a better theoretical understanding of the issues involved in the censoring of school library materials by looking directly at the knowledge or judicial awareness of school librarians about federal court rulings concerning school library materials and students' First Amendment rights of free speech and the right to receive information. Augmenting this concern was a consideration of school librarians' perceived behaviors regarding challenges to library materials under their care and responsibility.
Certain theories appear useful within the context of this investigation. Social constructionist theory is a logical theoretical base from which to approach some of these findings. This theory suggests that few absolute values exist, and that all individuals must develop their own values based on survival needs (Berger and Luckman 1967). Basically, this theory might help us better understand how school librarians build their own values systems concerning censorship and intellectual freedom based on needs and environmental influences. This approach might offer a means of determining how school librarians conceptualize attitudes and behaviors as they consider and deal with intellectual freedom issues.
Because intellectual freedom is a political as well as social force, discourse theory that suggests that dialogue between parties with differing point of views is necessary for mutually satisfying solutions (Esquith 1996). This concept also may offer a contextual framework to understanding the study's findings. For example, these data indicated that only a small minority of librarians were willing to engage in discussion or dialogue with authorities in attempts to protect their collections for censorship, and that they were reluctant to reach out into the community and dialogue with possible supporters.
Goffman's (1959) personality theory also is important here, as it argues that people in their professional and personal lives develop images and act on those images in terms of the perceived reward that those images will bring to them. School librarians may, indeed, select an image to present when faced with censorship challenges. These cultivated images are likely to be heavily influenced by how they wish to seen in the immediate social and political world in which they work.
A Continuing Situation
As stated, this study was conduced in 2002. Since that time, several important investigations, reports, and court ruling reinforce these finding. Shupala (2006) discovered, similar to these findings, a lack of awareness of freedom of speech issues by both Texas school librarians and principals. In his analysis, he reported the need for a better understanding by Texas school librarians and principals of students' legal and First Smendment rights. He found a conflict between the understanding of school principles and school librarians regarding the role of censorship in Texas public schools. This finding is not reflected in the current study, where school librarians generally felt that their principals would support them in censorship demands. Shupala's work further revealed so great a difference in ideas about censorship held by school librarians and school principals that he felt both groups needed better education in legal issues surrounding censorship. Harger's (2006) personal story humanized this conflict as she recounted the debate she experienced with her building-level school principals regarding censorship and local community sensitivity.
The increasing importance of the legal issues involved in the legal aspect of school library media center censorship is again highlighted by Kravitz (2002) and her review of law and its implications for school library media specialists. Ongoing legal court cases involving censorship disputes such as those involving the Harry Potter novels also continue to support the findings and recommendations of this study ( Counts v. Cedarville School District 2003; People for the American Way 2007; Greenhouse 2007).
Although perceptions held about local communities by school librarians were found to be significant in this study, more investigation is needed to better understand this aspect of predictive behavior. This seems important, in that a better understanding of pressures faced by school librarians at the local level is crucial in understanding how they react to unconstitutional challenges to collections and protection of their own individual rights. Future research should to be directed at determining how librarians are integrated into their local communities; how they view their communities politically, socially, and culturally; how they internalize those values; and how those values influence behaviors regarding students' First Amendment rights and their willingness to protect their collections against censorship. Fiedler (1998) found in her North Carolina study that 73 percent of her respondents viewed their communities as politically "somewhat conservative," a characteristic that may be predictive of librarian "self-censoring" and "covert censorship." As suggested by Coley (2002) in his study of Texas library collections, more research is needed to determined collection characteristics in terms of controversial materials and to better collate that to librarian self-censorship behaviors.
Additional Methods of Inquiry
Research is needed to better understand the types and levels of support that school librarians can expect to receive should they decide to challenge an official order from a governmental body to remove materials from their collections. From this as well as other research, it appears that there is some confusion among school librarians concerning those who might defend them. This may indicate there is no consistent external network available to school librarians for help when challenges to collection arise.
Because personal perceptions and social conditioning are so significant in how librarians form opinions regarding issues they face in professional life, the survey methodology used in this study needs to be augmented in future inquiries by including focus group discussions or interviews with individual librarians. A triangular approach using questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews would increase the reliability of such findings, thus deepening the levels of our understanding regarding how attitudes and behaviors are formed by school librarians.
Changes in the political and social environment since the initial study in 2002 also call for further research on this topic and approach. For example, in recent years, ALA has actively protested government actions concerning intellectual freedom issues through courts of various levels. These actions generally have been in concert with other groups interested in intellectual freedom. Will these actions by the leading professional library association in cooperation with other groups interested in protected intellectual freedom issues have affected attitudes and beliefs by school librarians in the participants' region (ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom 2007b)? Previously mentioned theories of group and individual behaviors supported by Berger and Luckman (1967), Esquith (1996), and Goffman (1959) may offer avenues for additional research into better understanding and predicting behaviors of school librarians regarding intellectual freedom issues.
Critique of Curricula
In 1976, educator Bruce Shuman (1977) surveyed ALA-accredited schools of library and information science concerning how intellectual freedom was approached in these schools' curricula. He found that only 15 percent had courses devoted solely to intellectual freedom, and that most schools integrated intellectual concepts and issues into various aspects of their instructional programs. Faculty generally viewed intellectual freedom as an important topic to be studied. Perhaps echoing a sense of complacency, most of the faculty respondents did not feel that intellectual freedom was being eroded by government or other forces in society. Shuman suggested that continued study was needed to determine shifts in emphasis in instruction concerning intellectual freedom and how librarians were being taught to deal with it. The importance of Shuman's suggestion to us now is that it came just as many court decisions concerning censorship were being announced or presented to courts for review. As the legal and profession literature reviewed in this study reveals, court decisions at the time or immediately following the Shuman report have had far-reaching effects on censorship and intellectual freedom.
The findings in the present study and other studies, such as Shupala's (2006), reviewed here suggest that the prevailing paradigm for the education of school librarians is in need of restructuring regarding how the broad areas of intellectual freedom are taught and presented to students. Youth advocate and educator Mary Kay Chelton believes that schools of library and information science generally do not give adequate attention to intellectual freedom issues (Reynolds 1999). Chelton contents that the curriculum in most schools of library and information science are so broad, that little time is left for intellectual freedom discussions or even the history of the library and the role that it as an institution has played in developing traditions and practices that support concepts of intellectual freedom (Reynolds 1999).
Previous studies have demonstrated that many reforms have taken place in the last few decades in how school library media specialists are educated. These reforms have emphasized the emerging role of the school library media specialists as education leaders, advocates for change, collaborators with teachers, and technological managers. Intellectual freedom appears to be subsumed within these categories (Callison and Tilley 2001; Shannon 2002, 2004; Tilley and Callison 2001). Chelton's remarks take on added meaning when compared with the broadening professional expertise of school librarians as indicated by these investigations. Evidence provided by Gover (1994), Samek (2001), and Thomson (2004) in support of intellectual freedom within the academy adds even more support to Chilton's concerns regarding the importance of academic freedom within professional education.
On the other hand, historical evidence shows that protection of collections from censorship has been a part of professional practice since the 1930s (Butler 1999). This suggests that intellectual freedom in various forms has always been a part of professional education. Modern-day curricula for librarians generally continue to include instruction on intellectual freedom issues, although apparently we have little consistently reported research evidence for this, as Shuman issued his study in 1977. Examples of current curricula include Indiana University, the University of Washington, and the University of British Columbia (Indiana University School of Library and Information Science 2007; University of Washington Information School 2007; Samak 2001). Shuman's earlier findings, especially the sense of faculty complacency, and Chelton's more recent concerns about the place of intellectual freedom in current curricula raise important concerns.
Standards and Education Codes
In protecting intellectual freedom, Bell (2007) suggests that a clear knowledge of school library media standards is necessary. The need for this instruction is often supported, even mandated, through professional standards and state certification codes. At the national level, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) standards give attention to intellectual freedom and access to information (AASL and AECT 1998) and education code at state and provincial levels generally endorse intellectual freedom instruction. For example, the Texas State Administrative Code (2007) mandates that instruction in freedom of access to materials be included in all school librarian certification preparation programs.
Curricula, Constitutional Law, and Professional Obligations
This study and others similar to it indicate that, generally, school librarians appear to understand the need to resist censorship of library materials in their charge, and that in many cases they are willing to explain to administrators and boards some of the legal issues involved in removing challenged materials from collections. What is lacking is a deep, fundamental knowledge or awareness of court interpretations of constitutional law and how these rulings affect school library collections and issues surrounding freedom of speech rights and students' legal rights to receive information. A new curriculum, or at least a readjustment of prevailing ones, and improved instructional approaches appear to be needed to correct some of the inadequacies of the legal knowledge of school librarians and their awareness of their constitutional obligations to protect students' access to information intellectual freedom rights.
Teaching the rules and application of law and school libraries' constitutional responsibilities will need to be based on a fundamental understanding of community sociology and the political elements in community structures that determine both the role of schools and the flow of information within school environments. The development of self-awareness and how it affects a person's understanding of their responsibilities to protect students' intellectual freedom rights is absolutely necessary within the instructional process.
Curricula and Research
Research is a key to understanding these issues. Research is needed to determine the existing attention given to academic freedom in current, and even future, curricula, especially regarding the types and levels of instruction that school librarians receive in their professional training on judicial and legal matters pertaining to censorship and academic freedom rights. More research also is needed to help understand the levels of influence that such instruction might have on professional attitudes and behaviors regarding the obligations of school librarians to protect the academic freedom rights of students. In addition, research is needed to determine the types of and effectiveness of instructional methodologies, curricula ,and instructional support materials needed to teach both the legalities of constitutional rights as well as the legal responsibilities of school librarians to defend freedom of access to information by youth.
From recent court decisions and social and cultural pressures, it is clear that school librarians, especially in the United States and Canada, will be called upon more and more to understand constitutional law and their obligations to defend freedom-of-speech issues within the school library environment. We already see evidence of this based on calls for more intense involvement in intellectual issues from the field. The importance of better legal training for school libraries is intensified by the emerging and broadening concept of the school and its library as a limited public forum. Defined by American courts, this means that a traditional space such a library or school is recognized by the government as appropriate for discussion, debate, and exchange of ideas, and the government cannot discriminate against viewpoints on subjects appropriate to the forum, although the government (such as school boards) can exclude categories of speech that justifiably do not fall within the designed purpose of the forum (ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee 1994; Minow and Lipinski 2003; Sipley 2003).
Although the present study was limited to one geographic location, the instructional paradigm used to educate school librarians is somewhat standardized nationally through the use of textbooks, state and national standards, certification requirements, and a long history of federal government grant support to educate school librarians based on national educational policy (Lukenbill 1983). Theoretically, over the years this standardization should have produced a rather uniform student product, with a clear understanding of school librarians' obligations to protect students' constitutional rights. In light of the overall increase in censorship attacks on school library collections, emerging laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act of 2006, and the development of government-endorsed surveillance policies that may have implications for limiting First Amendment rights strongly suggests that the prevailing methods of educating school librarians must be rethought.
The review of the literature as well as findings from this study suggests complex and often perplexing issues that need further consideration. The literature clearly shows that social and cultural expectations and needs require today's students at all levels of education to be critical thinkers, that they understand history and broad social movements, that become comfortable using a variety of media, and that they have access to good teaching (Callison and Tilley 1998; Chadwick-Joshua 1992; Harada et al. 2004). Without access to information, democratic institutions and societies are at risk. Participants in this study appear to have a vague understanding of this, but only a small minority seem to relate this to their social and professional responsibilities to help protect students' intellectual freedom rights.
Aside from learning more about the current status of intellectual freedom instruction in schools of library and information science and informed by important theoretical concepts as discussed previously, the following issues are presented for further consideration: (1) issues involving constitutional rights of students and the role of school library media specialists in protecting those rights; and (2) educational reform and curricula development.
1. Issues involving constitutional rights and school library media specialists obligations
- What are the consistent predictive behaviors of school library media specials regarding censorship within various environmental contexts?
- Can we develop a community and social model that helps us better under the pressures faced by school librarians at the local level as they react to unconstitutional challenges of censorship?
- Do school library media specialists know their own rights and how to protect those rights?
- Do we understand how school library media specialists are integrated into their local communities in terms of political and social realities affecting First Amendment and censorship issues?
- How do school library media specialists view their communities politically, socially, and culturally within the framework of First Amendment issues?
- How do they internalize community values and how do those value concepts influence behaviors regarding First Amendment rights of students?
- Based on their own basic social and culture values, how willing are school library media specialists to protect their collections against censorship?
- How prevalent is self-censorship among school library media specialists, and do they recognize this behavior in themselves?
- What type of support can school librarians expect to receive from school authorities as well as community leaders when they challenge an official order remove materials from their collections?
- Who are the dependable, community-based advocates against school library media center censorship?
- Is there a visible external network to which school librarians can turn to for help when challenges to collection arise?
- How can a viable external network to support school librarians in censorship challenges be established within different social and cultural contexts?
2. Educational reform and curricula
- How can school librarians best acquire fundamental knowledge within the educational process concerning court interpretations of constitutional law and rulings affecting school library collections and students' rights to receive information?
- What is the current level of instruction in the constitutional framework of First Amendment rights in prevailing instructional programs?
- Based on prevailing evidence, is a reform in school library media education needed to better address the perceived lack of basis constitutional knowledge among school librarians? If so, how can new curricula and new instructional approaches be developed and tested for effectiveness?
- How can existing curricula be adjusted to better reflect an awareness of community psychology and how institutions such as schools and libraries affect community behaviors through their support of First Amendment rights?
- What changes are needed in exiting or new curricula to foster better, fundamental understanding of community sociology and its role in fostering First Amendment protection?
- What educational changes can be made to help school librarians better understand political elements in community structures that determine both their role and the role of schools in promoting free access to information within school environments? What should be the role of community development and advocacy in curricula and instruction?
- What is the role of self-awareness in understanding of one's responsibilities to protect students' First Amendment rights? What implications does this have for curricula reforms?
- Will redesigned curricula affect attitudes and behaviors regarding the obligations of school librarians to protect the First Amendment rights of students? How can this be tested?
- What instructional methodologies and instructional materials are needed to better teach the legalities of constitutional rights and the legal responsibilities of school librarians to defend freedom of access to information by youth?
It is clear that school librarians in the United States and Canada as well as other democracies will be called upon more and more to understand constitutional law and their obligations under such laws to defend freedom of speech issues within the school library environment. We must continue to ask: Will their education prepare them well for this important social and educational obligation?
Tables for Censorship: What Do School Library Specialists Really Know? A Consideration of Students’ Rights, the Law and Implications
|Table 2. Librarians’ Responses to Censorship Challenges|
|None at all||81||54|
|Some, but rare||65||43|
|Feelings about Having to Explain Pico|
|I would not feel threatened for my professional credibility||64||43|
|I would feel that my professional credibility would be respected||46||31|
|I would feel somewhat threatened for my professional credibility||22||15|
|I feel my professional creditability would be enhanced||15||10|
|I would feel threatened for my professional credibility||2||1|
|Feelings of Support from Administrators|
Below are questions that relate to challenges to materials in library collections. Please take a few minutes to respond to these:
Section 1. School and Community Environment
A. Please tell me about yourself:
1. _____ Male
2. _____ Female
I was born
- _____ In 1980 or after
- _____ Between 1959 and 1979
- _____ Between 1938 and 1958
- _____ Between 1917 and 1937
- _____ In 1916 or before
The highest level of my education is:
1. _____High school or less
2. _____Bachelor's degree
3. _____Master's degree
4. _____Doctor's degree
The highest level of library certification I hold is:
1. _____ Endorse level certification
2. _____Learning resources level certification
3. _____ Emergency level certification
4. _____ I am currently studying for library certification
B. Please tell me about your school:
Please indicate the type of school you serve (indicate using the name locally applied to the school configuration)
1. _____High school
2. _____Junior high school
3. _____Middle school
4. _____Elementary school
5. _____Combination (check this if you serve more than one school)
Size of school:
1. _____Up to 200
2. _____201 to 500
3. _____501 to 1000
4. _____1001 and over
Location of school
1. _____Mostly Rural
4. _____Inner city urban
For the last report period, my school district was ranked by TEA as:
3. _____Academically Acceptable
4. _____Academically Unacceptable
5. _____Special circumstances
For the last report period, my campus was ranked by TEA as:
1. _____ Exemplary
4. _____Low Performing
C. Please tell me about your library
Size of book collection
1. _____Up to 1500 volumes
2. _____1501 to 10,000
3. _____10,001 to 20,000
4. _____20,001 and over
Diversity of collection (check as many as appropriate)
1_____Collection provides subscription at least 30 periodicals
2. ____Collection includes at least 100 non-print items in various formats (e.g., videos, CDs, etc.)
3. ____Collection includes access to the Internet
4. ____Collection provides access to the resources of the Texas Library Connection
5. ____Collection has other special features (please indicate): ____________________________
Spending for collection. Please indicate the total amount of money spent last school year directly for the development of the collection. Do not include the school's subscription to the Texas Library Collection:
1. _____ $1000 or less
2. _____ $1001 to $5000
3. _____ $5001 to $15,000
4. _____$15,000 and over
D. Please tell me about your perception of the community (select one only)
1. ____Liberal (general supports liberal politics and issues)
2. ____Extremely liberal (generally supports extreme liberal politics and social issues)
3. ____Conservative (generally supports conservative politics and social issues)
4. ____Extremely conservative (generally supports extreme conservative and social issues)
5. ____Moderate (generally is neither conservative or liberal)
6, ____Do not know the community well enough to respond
Section II. Challenges to Materials
Please respond to these questions by selecting one response to each question.
1. In your present position please rate the degree to which you have had challenges to the appropriateness of materials in your collection for the last year. Include the current year as well.
_____1. None at all
_____2. Some, but it's rare (one or two complaints a year)
_____3. Often, (at last once every few months)
_____4. Frequently (at least once a month)
_____5. Constant challenges (ongoing for the last 6 months)
2. Please rate the degree to which you are aware of the following court cases involving censorship that might have or can influence materials in school libraries
2.1 Title of Case: Miller v. California (413 U.S. 15)
_____ 1. Never heard of it
_____2. Have some awareness of it.
_____3. Have a general concept of its importance
_____4 . Have a good, solid understanding of it
_____5 . I know and understanding it well
2.2 Title of Case: Tinker v. the Des Moines (Iowa) School District (393 U.S. 503)
_____1. Never heard of it
_____2. Have some awareness of it.
_____3. Have a general concept of its importance
_____4 . Have a good, solid understanding of it
_____5. I know and understanding it well
2.3 Title of Case: President Council, District 25 v. Community School Board No. 25 (457 F. 2d 289)
_____1. Never heard of it
_____2. Have some awareness of it.
_____3. Have a general concept of its importance
_____4. Have a good, solid understanding of it
_____5. I know and understanding it well
2.4 Title of Case: Right to Read Defense Committee of Chelsea (Massachusetts) v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea (454 F.Supp.,703)
_____1. Never heard of it
_____2. Have some awareness of it.
_____3. Have a general concept of its importance
_____4 . Have a good, solid understanding of it
_____5. I know and understanding it well
3. The Island Trees v. Pico case (457 U.S. 853) is the only school library censorship case to come out of the U.S. Supreme. Please rate the degree to which you are aware of this ruling.
_____1. Never heard of it
_____2. Have some awareness of it
_____3. Have a general concept of its importance
_____4 Have a good, solid understanding of it
_____5. I know and understanding it well
4. Please review the following major concepts that came from Island Trees v. Pico ruling and respond to the following questions:
- School boards cannot simply order the removal of books from school libraries because of the ideas, values, etc. expressed in them
- School boards can remove books from school libraries based on sound educational reasons
- Removal of book(s) from a school library by a school board can be challenged in court to test whether its (their) removal was constitutional and within the law
4. 1. How closely do you agree with these Pico rulings: (Check only one)
_____1. I do not agree with any of these
_____2. I have some problems with the legal interpretation of these concepts
_____3. I generally agree with these concepts
_____4 . I am in agreement with these concepts
_____5. I support these concepts completely
5.1. Do you feel that the administration of your school district (principles and superintends) are aware of the Pico ruling and its implications for school library collections. (Check only one)
_____1. Administrators have no knowledge of this ruling
_____2. Administrators have limited awareness of this ruling
_____3. Administrators are generally aware of this ruling
_____4 . Administrators have a good understanding of this ruling
_____5. Administrators have a solid and well informed understanding of this ruling
6. Assume that you as a librarian would need at sometime in the future to inform your administrators about the Pico ruling. Rate how you feel your explanation to them of the Pico ruling might affect your professional credibility with your administrators. (Check only one)
_____1. I would feel threatened for my professional credibility
_____2. I would feel somewhat threatened for my professional credibility
_____3. I would not feel threatened for my professional credibility
_____4 . I would feel that my professional credibility would be respected
_____5. I would feel that my professional credibility would be enhanced
7. If you had a serious censorship challenge to materials in your collection, how supportive do you feel your school administration (e.g., administrators, school board) would be in helping you defend the disputed item(s)
_____1. They would not support the library staff's professional opinion to retain the item(s) in a challenge
_____2. They would give limited support to the library staff's professional opinion to retain the item(s) in a challenge
_____3. They would support the library staff's professional opinion to retain the item(s) in a challenge
_____4. They would strongly support the library staff's professional opinion to retain the item(s) in a challenge
_____5. They would completely support the library staff's professional opinion to retain the item(s) in a challenge
8. Assuming that a challenge to materials was upheld by your school's board and you were ordered to remove the material(s) and assuming that you felt the removal violated the concepts of Island Trees v. Pico and First Amendment protection (see question 4 ), indicate how likely you would be to respond: (Check only one)
8.1. Level of Acceptance
_____1. Accept the order
_____2. Accept the order with professional reservations
_____3. Accept the order but explain its possible legal consequences to those in authority
_____4. Dispute the order and provide court evidence that the order is in violation of law
_____5. Reject the order and prepare to challenge the order outside the school district
9. Assume that you do not agree with this board decision and you decided to turn for help
from outside the school district. For each of the options given below, select the choice that best represents your likely response: (Check only one response per option)
9.1. I would turn to parents for support:
_____1. Definitely not
_____3. Probably not
_____5. Most certainly
9.2 I would turn to the Texas Library Association (TLA) for direction and information:
_____1. Definitely not
_____3. Probably not
_____5. Most certainly
9.3. I would turn to the American Library Association (ALA) for direction and information:
_____1. Definitely not
_____3. Probably not
_____5. Most certainly
9.4. I would request help from the local or regional American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
_____1. Definitely not
_____3. Probably not
_____5. Most certainly
9.5. I would seek personal legal advice and counsel:
_____ 1. Definitely not
_____2 . No
_____3. Probably not
_____5 Most certainly
Section II. Additional Comments
Please feel free to add comments relating to this survey:
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