Denver, Colorado – High school students receive intellectual freedom award for protesting book ban at their school.
On Saturday, November 12, the Norwood High School students, who protested the removal of the book “Bless Me Ultima” from their school’s curriculum, were added to the Julie J. Boucher Community Honor Roll. This honor is awarded by the Colorado Association of Libraries Intellectual Freedom Committee and recognizes an individual or group in Colorado that promotes intellectual freedom, but is not directly affiliated with libraries.
Representing their fellow students were Sarah Setzer, Skyler Hollinbeck, and Stephanie Adams, who traveled over 370 miles from Norwood in southwest Colorado to Denver to accept the award. The incident that garnered all this attention happened in February 2005, when approximately 20 Norwood students organized a peaceful sit-in at their high school gym – reading from the banned book and discussing its removal. According to the three students “Bless Me Ultima” is still not back in the school's curriculum and has not received the promised review. Also at the awards ceremony were Carrie Andrews, librarian at Norwood High School, and Barbara Youngblood, director of the San Miguel Library District #2, Norwood Public Library.
During the presentation, Nicolle Steffen, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, said the students’ “act of civil disobedience demonstrated courage and maturity beyond their years, as well as knowledge about censorship, First Amendment Rights, and academic freedom.”
According to Steffen the affects of the students’ actions went far beyond their rural community, “Judging from the number email and phone messages I received, these students were an inspiration to many in our profession [librarianship].”
The awards ceremony was part of the Julie J. Boucher Memorial Lecture on Intellectual Freedom. This year’s speaker was former Colorado Congresswoman and current president of the Association of American Publishers, Patricia Schroeder, who expressed her admiration for the students, adding “We need to let everyone know about what these students did to protest the removal of the book from their school. They’re remarkable.”
In a similar incident in October, students at Arapahoe and Heritage High Schools in Littleton held a sit-in protesting the removal of “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison from their district’s libraries and curriculum.
Spokesperson, Colorado Association of Libraries
Phone: (303) 688-7656
Colorado Association of Libraries: http://www.cal-webs.org/
Intellectual Freedom Award: http://www.cal-webs.org/boucher.htm