10 J.L. & Educ. 23 (1981)
The Right to Read and School Library Censorship

handle is hein.journals/jle10 and id is 35 raw text is: The Right to Read and School Library
Censorship
FRANCES R. NICCOLAI*
Traditionally local school boards have enjoyed almost exclusive control over
public education within their districts. This authority includes, among others,
control over curriculum and student conduct. State legislatures confer these
broad discretionary powers on school boards in order to further the state's
objective to inculcate students with values and knowledge deemed necessary
to develop productive citizens. This well-established right to control the
educational processes,' however, is not completely unfettered; school board
authority cannot infringe on fundamental rights protected by the First Amend-
ment.
Until recently, courts have limited their review of school board decisions
and curriculum choices to attacks based on the First Amendment's Establish-
ment and Free Exercise of Religion clause.2 However, recent court decisions
have applied the freedom of speech aspect of the First Amendment to limit
the school board's heretofore unlimited power of censorship. Courts have
begun to address the purpose of the First Amendment, to preserve an open
marketplace of ideas and to assure a free flow of communication, and have
begun to recognize the importance of applying these principles to the nation's
schools. Students are no longer to be regarded as closed circuit recipients of
only that which the state wishes to communicate.3 The concept of freedom of
expression is now recognized as vital in our schools if we are to have an
intelligent and well informed citizenry.
It is this tension between the necessary administrative powers of school
boards and the First Amendment rights of those within the school system that
is the basis of recent federal court cases involving the removal of books from
secondary school libraries.4 In these cases, the courts have had to determine if
* J.D., University of Louisville School of Law.
Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968). (Unconstitutional to forbid the teaching of evolution
in public schools.)
2 West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). (Students challenged on
religious grounds requirement that pupils recite the pledge of allegiance each day. Court held
student has right not to be forced to express ideas with which he disagrees.) Wisconsin v. Yoder,
406 U.S. 205 (1972). Enforcement of compulsory attendance laws for Amish secondary students
abridged the students and their parents of the First Amendment free exercise of religious rights.
Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). Parents have First Amendment right to send their
children to non-public schools.
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). Students held to have
First Amendment right to nondisruptive political protest.
'President's Council, District 25 v. Community School Board, No. 25, 457 F.2d 289 (2nd Cir.
23

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