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NCAC letter to the Kutztown Area School District

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of more than 50 national non-profits, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. They have engaged in direct advocacy and education to support First Amendment principles for over 40 years. Alerted to the KASD superintendent's abrupt cancellation of the One School One Book program using Alan Gratz's middle grade novel Two Degrees, NCAC sent the following letter to the KSD school board.

February 21, 2023

School Board Kutztown Area School District

251 Long Lane

Kutztown, PA 19530

Dear Members of the School Board,

The National Coalition Against Censorship is an alliance of national nonprofit groups dedicated to protecting freedom of expression, including the rights of K-12 students, teachers and staff. We are writing in regard to Superintendent Temchatin's decision to cancel the district's One-Book Project after some people complained about the climate change themes of the book that was selected for that program, Alan Gratz's Two Degrees.

Under the One-Book Project, the Kutztown Area Middle School selects a book to be read by all students and subsequently discussed at school. This year, middle school educators selected Two Degrees, which is described by Common Sense Media as “offer[ing] a powerful message about the dangers of climate change told through the stories of four young teens.”

Our concern is that the Superintendent has circumvented board policy by unilaterally ending the project. Board policy 119.1 requires that objections to instructional materials or topics be adjudicated by a committee that includes "the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, a teacher(s), a librarian, a community representative chosen by the principal, and a department leader." Therefore, the superintendent's action violated the policy.

We understand that challenges to educational materials are often emotionally charged. As a result, it is important that districts adjudicate challenges in a manner which ensures that all parties feel that their views have been considered and that decisions about educational material are made in an objective, nonpolitical manner. NCAC has created a resource to help school officials address the problem of book challenges, Material Review and Policy Guidelines and Examples. It is attached.

Therefore, we urge the district to reinstate the project and adjudicate any challenges pursuant to the district's policy.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Finan

Executive Director National Coalition Against Censorship

Co-signed by:

American Booksellers for Free Expression

The Authors Guild Children's and Young Adult Books Committee

PEN America

National Council of Teachers of English

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