The Chicago board of education responded Wednesday afternoon to the letter sent late last week and re-sent Monday by six free speech advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, concerned over the Chicago Public Schools’ restricting students’ access to Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of her youth in Iran.
The letter, from Lee Ann Lowder, the deputy general counsel in the board’s law department, affirmed CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s directive last week to principals in the nation’s third largest public school system that Persepolis be pulled immediately from all 7th grade classrooms. While CPS chief of teaching and learning Annette Gurley informed PW on Friday that Persepolis will not be taught in 7th through 10th grade classrooms until the CPS curriculum department can put in place guidelines for teachers “who are not familiar with the book [to] better help students navigate through” it, Lowder wrote that “no decision has been made to remove Persepolis from 8th to 10th grade classrooms.” CPS administrators “are in the process of considering” whether to allow Persepolis to be taught in the 8th through 10th grades, and will decide “whether and how Persepolis will be used,” Lowder wrote.
Citing case law, Lowder argued that school boards have “broad discretion in selecting the public school curriculum” and that the “Chicago Board of Education has taken no action to create a public forum in the Chicago Public Schools.”
Acacia O’Connor, the coordinator of the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a collaboration between the NCAC and the ABFFE, wrote in an e-mail in response to PW’s query, that the KRRP will be “looking into [CPS’] removal and reconsideration policies to evaluate to what extent they are not following the policies they have in place. We will also be examining their legal arguments and the applicability of the cases they are citing.”
Persepolis will continue to be taught in the CPS 11th and 12th grades, as well as in Advanced Placement classes. It also remains shelved in CPS libraries.