Students protest after novel pulled from CPS curriculum

Students protest after novel pulled from CPS curriculum

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago public schools leaders says they're not banning books, but students, teachers and librarians are furious after CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett ordered a graphic novel pulled from the curriculum for seventh graders.

The book is called Persepolis; the coming of age story of a girl during the Iranian revolution. Byrd-Bennett calls the book inappropriate for young students, but others are calling it censorship.

About 100 students gathered in the rain outside Lane Tech High School to protest what they believe to be the district-wide ban on Persepolis, a graphic novel frequently used in classes studying politics and racial identity.

"They're not letting us read certain books in the school and Chicago Public Schools and that's unfair," student Emma Ryan says.

"Everybody needs the freedom to read whatever books they want," says student Chris Szymanski. "We can't turn into a totalitarian style government."

On Wednesday, CPS sent an email to schools asking administrators to remove copies of Persepolis from classrooms and school libraries after the district received complaints about drawings showing people being tortured, including one drawing of a guard urinating on a prisoner.

District officials say that email was sent in error. They say schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett intended only for the book to be removed from seventh grade classrooms, and it was never banned or pulled from high schools.

In an email Friday, Bennett writes: "it was brought to our attention that it contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum."

Barbara Jones of the American Library Association says the move still doesn't make sense because Persepolis had already been approved for seventh graders.

"We believe that removing books from the hands of kids is chilling and is an act of censorship," Jones says. "This has already been studied. This book was included in a curriculum that has been analyzed and written by administrators and teachers alike."

Lane Tech students say they have been in contact with the book's author, Marjane Satrapi, and they say she called it shameful that her autobiographical account of growing up in revolutionary Iran had been pulled for any age.

"We need to learn these things, because things like this happened in history," says student Georgia Tankard. "So being exposed to this only makes us smarter."

Seventh graders wanting to read the book should have no trouble finding it. The Chicago Public Library has more than 100 copies; though, we're told they were disappearing quickly as word of the controversy spread.

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