Archive for Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bill could put limits on book choices

House proposal targets ‘obscene’ material in schools

February 27, 2007


— A Lawrence English teacher said Monday that proposed legislation to reduce protections for teachers from obscenity laws could result in students missing out on important literature.

"We do our kids a disservice when we start censoring" books that have been read for years, said Lori Stussie, who teaches a class called Diverse Voices at Lawrence High School.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee has recommended approval of House Bill 2200, which would limit a legal protection for elementary and secondary teachers from laws governing obscene materials. College and university instructors and professors would retain the protection.

Supporters of the bill said there is potential harm to minors in being exposed to obscenity or pornography in novels, plays, books and films.

"The practical effect of this defense is that materials that would be illegal if sold at a porn shop may be legal if displayed to a kindergarten class," said Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, who sought the legislation.

But State Board of Education Chairman Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence, opposed the bill, saying local school districts - not the Legislature - should handle any conflict about literature.

"We need to protect the classroom from those kind of intrusions," Wagnon said.

Committee member Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said the bill was a setup for legal action.

"This bill is not about stopping nefarious teachers. This bill is about giving nefarious district attorneys a tool to bring charges against English teachers," Mah said.

Mah was referring to Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, the former state attorney general. She said there was a test case for the obscenity bill in the Blue Valley school district, also in Johnson County.

The parent group Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools has sought for two years to get the Blue Valley school district to remove 14 books from its curriculum.

Some of the books the group has complained about include "Black Boy," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Song of Solomon" and "Secret Life of Bees."

Kinzer, however, said the bill's intent goes beyond a lone group of angry parents in a single district.

Stussie, the LHS teacher, said many times the books criticized as obscene by some groups were written by minority authors.

She said such books were important in giving nonminorities a "broad spectrum of cultural perspectives," and that her classes incorporated some of the books that often draw complaints.

Stussie said classes she was familiar with provide alternative selections for a student who doesn't want to read the required book. Also, she said, in her smaller literature groups she lets the students pick which book to read.

Some fear that teachers will censor their classes to avoid legal problems if such a bill becomes law.

Stussie said she didn't know how other teachers would react, but said her courses likely would stay the same.

"It probably would not deter me from teaching the things I see that are valuable," she said.


BrianR 10 years, 9 months ago

The book-burnin' Nazis who call themselves The Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools need to restrict their poisonous ideas to Blue Valley. They are another Kansas punch line and need to be stopped.

Nikki May 10 years, 9 months ago

I think this is horrid. I mean, who decides what's morally "right". Some of the books that have been on banned/challenged lists are favorites here at home. Captain Underpants is often on these lists. Harry Potter books, Shel Silverstein books, even a dictionary, Charlie and the Chocolate factory has been restricted, the Bridge to Terabithia, Harriet the Spy, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe, Little House books, the Lorax, as well as many others. Those are just some of the kids' books on various lists. My favorite "adult" book on the list is Fahrenheit 451.

ksmattfish 10 years, 9 months ago

"The practical effect of this defense is that materials that would be illegal if sold at a porn shop may be legal if displayed to a kindergarten class," said Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, who sought the legislation.

What materials would these be? Like a cookie and milk, because the smut shop doesn't have a food license? What would you find in a Kansas kindergarten class that is too obscene for a porno shop? Typical fear mongering conservative BS!!

davisnin 10 years, 9 months ago

Here are some of the books that caused a ruckus when I was in third grade.

"Incubus Dreams" by Anita Blake "The Pimp's Rap" by Master Pimp "Going Down: The Essential Guide to Oral Sex" by Rogers & Perry "S&M: Studies in Dominance and Submission" by Thomas Weinberg

paladin 10 years, 9 months ago

Herr Kline has a forum and his minions are on the march. Freedom and truth be damned.

prioress 10 years, 9 months ago

Relax, folks, the Radical Christian Right has your best interest at heart; read your bible and any other fictional works you have around the house.......DEEP BREATHS!

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 9 months ago

Now this may be simple or logical, but ho abut the parents deciding if they do not want their child o read a book? The teacher can send home a list and the parents can say no to this one or yes to that one, I for one do not remember anything close to porn like books not even in highschool so I think that statement is a bit, oh what is a good word, bull#$%*, or overblown.

oldgoof 10 years, 9 months ago

...and I was thinking Phill would lose his grandstand.

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 9 months ago

what ever happended to parental control over your childs life? my parents never would have raised a stink if they did not want me to read something, way back when, but would have asked the teacher fr an alternative subject matter to read, I just do not get somethings I guess.

farmgirl 10 years, 9 months ago

"My favorite "adult" book on the list is Fahrenheit 451."

That is funny, and indescribably sad. You have to wonder if those who believe they have the right to determine what everyone else reads have even cracked the cover of these books before they determine them unsuitable.

denak 10 years, 8 months ago

This is stupid. I work at a school in this district for a year and although that doesn't make me an "expert" on the subject, I can tell you from my experience that there is no plot afoot to bring anything remotely "pornographic" into the classroom. The teachers and librarians I worked with were professionals who cared deeply about giving their kids a quality education and didn't have any agenda other than delivering that quality education.

I have an 8 year old and a 15 year old and I read what they read. My son recently brought home "The Chocolate Wars." He has also read "The Outsiders" in class. Both of these books are banned but both of these books got my 15 year old to read and not because they had curse words in them. He read them because they dealt with issues that he, and other teenagers, deal with. Maybe not in the extreme as in the book but he still deals with them.

And that is what I think these parents are afraid of--the ones who are pushing for these laws to punish teachers, ban books...etc. They want to think that the world their children are growing up in doesn't exist. They want to think that the worst thing their children are thinking about is how to get rid of their zits. I wish.

These books offer children a way to deal with their issues and some of those issues are uncomfortable and that is why I think they want to ban these books and everything. These parents can't deal with the reality of their kids' lives.


RonBurgandy 10 years, 9 months ago

This is ridiculous, what a waste of time.

Eric Neuteboom 10 years, 9 months ago

This whole thing reminds me of a sketch I saw in the latest Victor show. The one where they tried to ban math. At the time I thought, "how far-fetched and ridiculous."

Now? I'm scared s***less that when I have kids (someday) they'll be given a choice of three approved books from the library.

Good Lord, this is just CRAZY! Censorship? Really?

Sorry, I'm simply astonished that in the 21st this is still a debate.

Jamesaust 10 years, 9 months ago

Kinzer could be seen as just a different point-of-view if his comments weren't so silly.

I suppose it might just be possible that a principal and teacher might conspire together to present as approved educational curricular materials to Kindergarteners that "taken as a whole, a reasonable person would find that lacks serious literary, educational, artistic, political or scientific value".

Should that shocking day ever arrive, however, that would be a matter to be addressed by the elected school board, who would (no doubt) dismiss the offending teacher.

Or are we to believe that there's a voting constituency in the state that would sanction their school district shopping for Kindergarten supplies at their local 'porn shop'?

How stupid Kinzer must believe his constituents are?

SportTea 10 years, 9 months ago

I am just recovering from the laughter pointed at me over the Evolution/Devine intervention debate. Now we are burning books. Sigh

Rationalanimal 10 years, 9 months ago

"I'm scared... that when I have kids (someday) they'll be given a choice of three approved books from the library."

If there are only 3 books to read, then there should be plenty of time to turn the TV off and have your kids read books outside of school that you select.

betti81 10 years, 9 months ago

This just really makes me sad. I read and enjoyed many of the books on their "list". Why is it so unhealthy and "anti-moral" to read about a topic one might be uncomfortable with and discuss it like a civilized human being? Yet again I am greatful for parents who allowed me to read what I wished.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 9 months ago

Speaking of TV...have you ever noticed that thes nutty parents who want to ban books are the same ones that have their little ones sitting around in the evening while they watch raunchy, trashy shows on TV?

This is laughable. I don't recall EVER being subject to anything even remotely close to porn in school.

There was a big hue and cry here when a teacher assigned "Annie On My Mind" in a high school class. Not because it was a book about teenage love, mind you, but because it was about a homosexual relationship.

I read the book myself, and thought it was wonderful.

By high school, your kids are probably reading books that you don't even know about. They don't have to read them in school, you know. There's such a thing as a public library, where they can check out anything they want.

And there is nothing that will spur kids tmore to go out and find a book and read it than trying to ban that book from a school.

Ralph Reed 10 years, 8 months ago

This pretty much says it all. I found this at the ALA Webpage on Banned Books ( Be careful though. If you're from Johnson county you might be brought up on obscenity or "not right-thinking" charges.

"Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty:

'If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.' - On Liberty, John Stuart Mill"

As I said in another post. I pity people like Kinzer (and oddly enough people like Kline) because of the way they threaten and use fear just like a schoolyard bully. However, their small-mindedness, inability to accept that people often don't think like them and desire to use "the law" to forward their own theocratic ends is frightening at the very least. I'm reminded of parts of "1984" and "Animal Farm", and scenes from the movie "V for Vendetta"; all three are entertaining, but are also very frightening. I'm usually very tolerant of people and what they do, but I would probably cross the street to avoid people like Kinzer and Kline.

Just one question, which Song of Soloman is everyone talking about, that from the Bible (parts of which have also been challenged), or the book by Toni Morrison?

lounger 10 years, 8 months ago

sounds like this stuff is from 1907 not 2007. censorship is a very dirty word--total nonsense in this day and age!!!!!!

justthefacts 10 years, 8 months ago

My mother, God rest her soul, was a lady, strictly religious, and something of a prude.

She let me read anything that I could get my hands on - as soon as I wanted - right after she'd read it first. That way, she could discuss the materials content with me and provide me with input on what she thought of the writer and the story. Critical thinking skills cannot be taught too early.

You cannot, ever, protect your child 100%. From any type of harm. Better to arm them with the tools necessary to become discerning, thinking, and capable adults. The sooner the better, for their sakes!

If any rational adult truly thinks they can keep their child completely free from taint or influence from the rest of the world, they either have some private island that they will take their family to live on, or they have their heads stuck in the sand (or somewhere else where light doesn't shine).

preebo 10 years, 8 months ago

I've got to hand it to RalphReed for throwing out some J. S. Mills. A perfect example for Utilitarianism in reverse, here.

Kinzer is attempting to levy morality on the masses rather than the masses themselves. The only trouble here is that he doesn't have a constitutional leg to stand on here. Even if, and I mean EVEN if the Kansas Legislature passes this particular measure it won't hold up to constitutional scrutiny.

This is a prime example of this NEO Conservative movement. This in no way is Republican nor is it Libertarian, neither camp really wants government to tell us what we can and cannot read.

preebo 10 years, 8 months ago


Mills. Orwell. Good use of literary evidence to support your argument, and Ironically enough, these are most certainly books that Representative Kinzer would have banned. Well done, Bravo, RR.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 8 months ago

Number one what makes anyone think these facist pigs are even real christians? Neoconservative facist thinkers like Brownback perhaps.

It's time to send this legislature home for they are a threat to democracy. Aren't these the same folks who stand up for special interest money calling it freedom of speech? hmmmm

Time to save tax dollars. Let's ask them to shut down and go home for lacking the ability to remain focused on matters of substance.

Tom McCune 10 years, 8 months ago

Justic Stewart was right. Pornography is hard to define, but "I know it when I see it."

Anne of Green Gables = bad literature Behind the Green Door = good porn

Teachers have a hard enough time getting anything done at all without fear of being sued for every imagined transgression. Leave the existing protections in place.

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