Robot 6

Maine school board votes to keep Stuck in the Middle in libraries

A Maine school board voted overwhelmingly last night to allow the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age to remain in middle-school libraries after a parent challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.”

The Sun Journal reports the board of Regional School Unit #10 in Dixfield agreed with a recommendation made last month by a special committee that the book be made available only with parental permission. Superintendent Tom Ward said this is the first time in his eight years as head of the district that a book has been challenged.

Edited by Ariel Schrag, the 2007 anthology features contributions by such cartoonists as Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Dash Shaw and Lauren Weinstein. As the title suggests, the frank stories focus on the highs and lows of life in seventh and eighth grade, from first loves to first zits. It was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its 2008 Books for the Teen Age.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter to Ward last month saying that Stuck in the Middle “may not be right for every student at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.  But the library has a responsibility to represent a broad range of views in its collection and to meet the needs of everyone in the community – not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority.  While parents and community members may – and should – voice their concerns and select different materials for themselves and their children, those objecting to particular books should not be given the power to restrict the rights of other students and families to access the material.”

Board member Cynthia Bissell disagreed with that notion, arguing the anthology does nothing to fulfill the function of schools. ““I read it cover to cover,” she said. “I was appalled. This book does nothing to elevate students. It implies that everyone speaks and acts that way.”

This isn’t the first time Stuck in the Middle has been challenged: In November 2009, a South Dakota school board voted to remove the book from middle-school libraries while making it available to teachers to use in class.

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I and a group of teachers and teacher educators published a resource to help teachers preemptively protect against cases like this. See _Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels_ here: http://maupinhouse.com/index.php/rationales-for-teaching-graphic-novels.html

This text wasn’t one of the 108 graphic novels written on, but I wish it had been. Thanks for covering this story! I only wish I had known of it sooner so I could have helped as well. Kudos to the CBLDF for its efforts!!!

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