From Publishing Perspectives:
In a strongly worded letter to the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3 in South Carolina, the Authors Guild today (July 13) is demanding that the organizing stop “interfering in the reading selections of a high school in suburban Charleston.”
Publishing Perspectives readers are familiar with this case from our reporting earlier this month on how the police organization president, John Blackmon is calling for an English-class summer reading list to drop The Hate U Give (HarperCollins, 2017) by Angie Thomas and All American Boys (Simon & Schuster, 2015) by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
Both books have stories that include police brutality and racism as themes, and both are among the most highly acclaimed bestsellers in their sector of recent years. Blackmon’s complaint about the books–two of four titles from which students of Wando High Schoo’s English 1 class in Mount Pleasant are to choose and read one.
In the guild’s open letter to the police group, executive director Mary Rasenberger writes, “Attempts at censorship by law enforcement organizations cannot be tolerated in a democracy. Educators must be free to choose books on any and all subjects for their students’ reading.”
. . . .
Rasenberger writes to Blackmon, “This interference–which is clearly based on the content of the books in question–must stop.
“It is a blatant violation of students’ first amendment rights and an improper attempt at censorship by law-enforcement officials.
“It is a fundamental principle of democracy that police have no proper role in deciding what books should or should not be read. We have already co-signed a letter to the principal of Wando High School to urge the school to abide by its own internal processes, and we ask the Fraternal Order of Police to cease its efforts to influence that process.”
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
While PG has an instinctive response to oppose actions by government entities to restrict the availability or use of nearly any book, he must note here that this is an argument between two different entities comprised of government employees.
Arguably, the Fraternal Order of Police is a private membership organization (assuming police officers are not required to be members) and can say what it wants about any subject. In their private capacity, police officers are permitted to create associations to further their personal goals and exercise their first amendment rights individually and as a group to support or oppose just about anything they desire just like any other group does in the United States.
Assuming, for argument’s sake that the police department, rather than a private association is trying to forcibly limit books read by teenagers, that’s a bad idea because there’s an express or implied government backing for the limitation.
However, the summer reading list was clearly created by government employees acting in direct connection with their employment, so a clearer First Amendment infringement argument could be made by or on behalf of the students who are apparently required to read one of four books on a list provided by the school as a summer assignment. If these are suggestions by the high school and the students are free to read whatever they want, there shouldn’t be a problem, but if all the books were about police brutality and racism and included strong anti-police themes, PG thinks a student might object.
If all four books on the summer mailing list were written by white supremacist or antisemitic authors (or even – gasp – by Republicans), one might expect a lot of protests against the list, including by the Fraternal Order of Police.
PG will note that the two books mentioned in the OP are published by huge corporations – HarperCollins is owned by News Corp. was an American multinational mass media corporation headquartered in New York City and controlled by Rupert Murdoch and Simon & Schuster, Inc., is a subsidiary of CBS Corporation.
PG was also reminded of the increasing popularity of home schooling, at least in some areas of the country, which involves no government action. PG was further reminded of friends who are home schooling their children. Their two oldest children started college at age 16 and 14 after each attained a perfect score on the ACT.