Robot 6

Chicago Public Schools told not to remove ‘Persepolis’

persepolisChicago Public Schools have been told to disregard an earlier order to remove Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed 2000 graphic novel Persepolis. Instead, the Chicago Tribune reports, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has asked that the autobiography no longer be taught to seventh-graders. It will, however, remain in libraries.

Word of the initial order spread quickly following the removal of copies of the book Wednesday afternoon from Lane Tech College Prep, one of the largest schools in the city. The move sparked outcry from teachers, parents and students, who had organized a protest for later this afternoon.

Although Persepolis in included in the district’s curriculum for seventh-graders, Byrd-Bennett said in a letter sent to principals this morning that it may not be appropriate for that age group. According to the Tribune, the district released images from the graphic novel depicting a man being whipped, burned with an iron and urinated on.

Depicting Satrapi’s experience is a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award.

After directing principals to have seventh-grade teachers remove the book from their classroom, Byrd-Bennett said that “due to the powerful images of torture,” she has asked the Office of Teaching & Learning to develop guidelines so educators “can be trained to present this strong but important content.” The district will also decide whether, “after appropriate teacher training,” Persepolis should be included in the curriculum for grades eight through 10.

“These are not photos of torture. It’s a drawing and it’s one frame,” Satrapi told the newspaper. “I don’t think American kids of seventh grade have not seen any signs of violence. Seventh-graders have brains and they see all kinds of things on cinema and the Internet. It’s a black and white drawing and I’m not showing something extremely horrible. That’s a false argument. They have to give a better explanation.”A CPS spokeswoman told the newspaper the initial directive was sent by district staff following concerns raised by teachers at Austin-North Lawndale, but it didn’t reflect the intent of the administration.

“The message got lost in translation, but the bottom line is, we never sent out a directive to ban the book,” spokeswoman Becky Carrolll told the Tribune. “We want to make sure there’s an appropriate way to teach it to students given the graphic nature of the novel. […] We’re not saying remove these from buildings altogether.”

UPDATE: Chicago Public Schools has provided ROBOT 6 with the full text of Byrd-Bennett’s letter to principals:

I am writing to clarify an email you received from Network Chiefs earlier this week about the graphic novel, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. First, let me be clear – we are not banning this book from our schools.

Persepolis is included as a selection in the Literacy Content Framework for seventh grade. It was brought to our attention that it contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum. If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms.

We have determined Persepolis may be appropriate for junior and senior students and those in Advance Placement classes. Due to the powerful images of torture in the book, I have asked our Office of Teaching & Learning to develop professional development guidelines, so that teachers can be trained to present this strong, but important content. We are also considering whether the book should be included, after appropriate teacher training, in the curriculum of eighth through tenth grades. Once this curricular determination has been made, we will notify you.

Also, please be reminded that central school library collections are governed by the New Collection Development Policy For School Libraries. We are not requesting that you remove Persepolis from your central school library. Therefore do not remove this book or any other book from the central school library, unless you have complied with the policy.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and your staff.



Ridiculous. Those 7th graders have been playing Call of Duty and zombie games for years by that age. Stop trying to nerf the world and teach kids how to deal with the realities of life! Persepolis is a great book, all 7th graders should read it.

In the 7th grade I was drawing more torture than the Islamic Regime.

What’s next “MAUS”? this is getting crazy. “Persepolis” is a great book and it is about someones experience while growing up during a regime. Kids should read in in school as a way to expand their horizons and understanding about the world. Which is the point of School. My head hurts.

something seems strange about this. it could be innocent in intentions, but there is almost a disconnect with reality here if people think 7th graders have not been exposed to graphic violence like this. if they do not have access to this book, then it’s likely that much of the graphic violence they do see will be primarily be presented without an intelligent context, or even without any remorse represented. at least this is a book with thought and truth behind it.
maybe there is a more political reason behind the motivations? or maybe it’s the simple fact that illustrations and comic books can be powerful….more powerful then they are sometimes given credit for.

I have one question: what is the main age for 7th grade kid??
In this so violent world, TV news, video games, movies AND comic books from some publishers, despite being rated “T”, are more violent, crude, than a simple strip in B&W.

I do not understand this paradox: the USA is a very violent country in some of its States, but kids are not allowed to read some books because of some “not for their ages” books depicting some faces of the true “outside” world.


Great. Persepolis isn’t banned. But it won’t be taught either. And it “may” eventually be taught again to 11 and 12 graders, but only after some unspecified “guidelines” for teaching it. Yeah, any bets on whether this will happen? What a load of bureaucratic doublespeak manure!

What obviously happened was some parents squawked about the book being taught, either because of the content or maybe just because it was about Iran (this happened a few years ago in Washington state). The bureaucrats, as they always do, went overboard to placate the squawkers and were stunned when it blew up in their faces, having, of course, no clue what a huge comix town Chicago is. So they frantically backpedaled without really changing their stance at all and everyone, apparently, is falling for it!

This isn’t a victory at all! A couple copies will remain in a high school library or two in the district. They will very quietly disappear from junior high libraries. Those promised guidelines will be in development for the rest of the school year and — surprise!— be mothballed and never materialize when the next school year begins. And by then, the whole thing will be forgotten.

A clumsy headline-grabbing ban is swapped out for a sneaky backdoor ban. The result is the same.


March 16, 2013 at 6:44 am

Derf Backderf,

Its unlikely this was the fault of the bureaucrats this go around or even in your own state. Elected officials and/or the school CEO (exactly how we need to run schools sarcasm tag), a political position, made this decision. Barbara Byrd Bennet gave the order, and she hired by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel from a similar position in Detroit. They have made no secret of their support for charter schools and disdain for teachers. This wasn’t an over reaction.

A public protest leads to a comic NOT being banned in schools? Wertham would have *really* hated this.

Having taught 7th grade, I should note that at that age, emotional maturity varies quite a bit– Persepolis is not necessarily a book all 7th graders are mature enough to read on their own, but it is certainly something that can be taught in a classroom with a teacher providing historical context.

I think the book itself is a bit overrated, but if it is taught in context, it is a useful introduction for young readers to who know Iran merely from the nightly news.

as an Iranian, i’m kind of surprised they actually taught this in schools, and now that it’s no more, it cringes my heart, there are only a few examples which explain real life in Iran, and Persepolis was an amazing example which is not only an autobiography, but it’s a history lesson and a cultural bridge…

violent images? i see kids that age on video games, shouting at their playmate on the other handle “I WILL KILL YOU, I WILL KILL YOU” and sometimes they even throw the “F bomb” on each other…
and i was literally thinking to myself… is this what kids this age do? how they’re brought up? comparing them to myself when i was their age… and i’m only 25.

if a comic is called violent…. i don’t know what i just saw is… this is stupid.

@Judge MANSON: “I have one question: what is the main age for 7th grade kid??”

It varies state-by-state, but here in Arizona it’s 13.

13 as in PG-13, which is the rating the film version of Persepolis — which was basically a word-for-word, panel-for-panel adaptation of the comic — received. Funny, that.

When I was in the 7th grade I was exposed to DC’s “The Killing Joke”. How could Persepolis be more inappropriate than that considering the age group?

I wanted to teach this book, too. But it was the urination image that doomed it.
It is unmistakable that the guy is holding his unit, so we elected not to use it.

It probably speaks to a larger point, that none of us had a problem with the more violent aspects,
yet the drawing of a man holding his penis and urinating proves to be too challenging.

The reality of it is, it is too hard to predict; all you need is one person to squawk and suddenly you are a horrible educator with lousy judgment and should never be allowed around young people again.

I can understand people being worried because when I was in 7th grade I definitely hadn’t been exposed to any violence outside of Super Smash Bros and that was only 10 years ago. Every child is different and educators should be aware of how to expose this sort of material to them.

However, I just hope that the training they suggest isn’t merely a smokescreen to completely block the book from classrooms. The material gives a good viewpoint on her personal experiences and it’s helpful to remember that there are real people being affected by things like this when you read about it in history books.

At least it’s still in the libraries though for those students who wish to read it in their own free time.

Estephany Montiel

March 19, 2013 at 11:27 am

I just can’t believe it. If 7th graders are 13 years old, they’re already teenagers and, therefore, they’re at a perfect age to read books such as this one. To say they aren’t banning it from all the libraries altogether is a bad joke. They will leave few copies available because there’s no need of more when students won’t be reading it at class. “Teachers need to be given proper guidelines to teach that book”… aren’t they capable to teach historical context and to be objective, open-minded and tolerant while teaching a book? I don’t want to be rude, but in that case they shouldn’t have become teachers in the first place. But something tells me, it isn’t the teacher’s fault either. I guess someone doesn’t want students to THINK, it’s like somebody doesn’t want them to learn new important things, because they think it’s inconvenient and they want to tell teachers exactly what to teach… it’s that or they just think 7th graders are plainly stupid as well as their parents.

Sorry, I usually don’t speak my mind this way, but whenever it comes to censor books that are worthy my blood boils.

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