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10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant


8
The Right to Ban Books at School
The American Library Association says that the "Harry Potter" series collectively is the most banned book of the 21st century. © Andrew Fox/Corbis
The American Library Association says that the "Harry Potter" series collectively is the most banned book of the 21st century. © Andrew Fox/Corbis

If offended parents had their way, high school libraries would be free of such "filth" as "The Great Gatsby," "Ulysses" and the "Harry Potter" series [source: American Library Association].

Throughout the 20th century, individual students, outside groups, and most often, parents have sought to ban or remove certain books from public school libraries. In case after case, the Supreme Court has defended a student's First Amendment right to read and receive information.

In a landmark 1982 Supreme Court case, the justices ruled that a local New York board of education violated its students' constitutional rights by removing nine books identified by a conservative organization as "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy" [source: ALA].

School officials cannot restrict access to books just because they disagree with the content and ideas found in them. Sexually explicit material and offensive language are the top reasons for challenging books, but those reasons alone haven't held up in court. The only justifiable reason cited by the Supreme Court for removing a book from a public school libraries is if it qualifies as "pervasively vulgar" [source: First Amendment Center]. "Harry Potter" should be safe for now.


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