FIVE TEENS WIN THE RIGHT TO READ: ISLAND TREES SCHOOL DISTRICT VS PICO
In 1982, the Supreme Court heard a case known as the Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico.
In it, seventeen-year-old Steven Pico and four other teens, 14 to 16, challenged the school board's decision to pull eleven titles from library shelves in 1976, based on a complaint by conservative community group, Parents of New York United.
This group maintained that The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud; Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris; Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas; Best Short Stories of Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes; Go Ask Alice, authorship anonymous; Laughing Boy, by Oliver LaFarge; Black Boy, by Richard Wright; A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, by Alice Childress; Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver; and A Reader for Writers, edited by Jerome Archer were objectionable -- many based on the review of excerpts only.
After a school board review committee agreed the books were irrelevant, vulgar, immoral, in bad taste and educationally unsuitable, the books were pulled from library shelves. When the local press reported the book banning, the board defended its actions, calling the books "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.”
High school senior Steven Pico and his peers filed a lawsuit challenging the board's ruling that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won.
According to legal expert Claire Mullally, "The Court recognized that the First Amendment rights of students are 'directly and sharply implicated' when a book is removed from a school library. Therefore, the discretion of school boards to remove books from school libraries is limited. The law requires that if a book is to be removed, an inquiry must be made as to the motivation and intention of the party calling for its removal. If the party’s intention is to deny students access to ideas with which the party disagrees, it is a violation of the First Amendment."
MORE ABOUT THE PICO CASE
Board of Education Vs. Pico (Supreme Court Decisions) by John Coopersmith Gold 21st Century, 1997 ISBN: 0805036601
Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship and the Innocence of Youth by Marjorie Heins Hill & Wang, 2002 ISBN: 0809073994