Court: OK to Remove Vamos a Cuba From School Library Shelves
By Rocco Staino — School Library Journal, 2/10/2009
Vamos a Cuba (Heinemann, 2001), a controversial book by Alta Schreier that paints a rosy picture of life in the communist country, can be removed from Miami-Dade County school libraries, ruled a panel of judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling overturns a July 2006 injunction by the Southern Florida District Court that allowed the book to remain in Miami-Dade County school libraries despite a school board vote of 6-3 to remove 49 copies of the book. The school board, disregarded recommendations of the superintendent and district committees to retain the book, and sided with parent and former political prisoner, Juan Amador Rodriguez, who complained that Vamos a Cuba (Let’s Visit Cuba ) avoids controversial topics, including the repressive regime of former dictator Fidel Castro, who had ruled Cuba for decades.
Another parent, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), challenged the removal of the book on First Amendment grounds.
In 2006, Pat Scales, president of the Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC) testified on behalf of the ACLU, saying “that (children) ages four to eight cognitively really don’t ‘get’ the concept of government.” .
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU’s Florida branch says he’s not deterred by the latest court decision. “Clearly, this can’t be allowed to stand,” he told the Miami Herald. “We must take further action to prevent the shelves of the Miami-Dade school library from being scrubbed clean of viewpoints some people in the school find objectionable. However much they try to evade the facts and bend the law into a pretzel, censorship is censorship is censorship.”
In 1982, the landmark supreme course, Board of Education (Island Trees) vs Pico denied the school board the right to remove books from a school library if the board “disliked the ideas contained in it.”
Michael Froomkin, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, has been following this case on his blog Discourse.net In an email exchange with School Library Journal, Froomkin said the next step may be for the ACLU to put a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the case.
“The odds of the court reviewing the case increase if there seems to be a “split” among the various circuit courts on how they understand the law,” Froomkin says.
Needless to say, if this course of action is taken, the process will be long and involved. To date, the legal expenses for the district have been in excess of a quarter of a million dollars.
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