January 23, 2022

Iowa: Free Speech Groups Defend “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Against Label of ‘Obscenity’

From the NCAC:

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is again defending Stephen Chobsky’s young adult novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, after Iowa parents labeled it “obscene” and pushed for its removal from local classrooms.

Earlier this month, Jodi Lockwood, a parent of a child at Hempstead High School in Dubuque Iowa, brought an official reconsideration request for the inclusion of Perks in the Dubuque schools’ curriculum after discovering the book contained “graphic scenes” involving sexual and drug abuse. A review panel was then convened to discuss the reconsideration request. At the initial meeting parents expressed concern that the book may be harmful for young readers, potentially triggering trauma in students who had undergone relatable experiences. Others suggested parents should be notified whenever controversial material is taught.


NCAC’s letter to the review committee argues that the mere presence of “graphic” scenes is no ground for deeming a book inappropriate. Using this reasoning, the letter notes, great works of literature, like many of Shakespeare’s plays, could also be excluded from school curriculums. NCAC recommends the committee rule in favor of keeping the book, underlining the precedent a removal would set for future book challenges and the inevitable toll this will take on Dubuque student’s education.

The letter is co-signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, American Society of Journalists and Authors and PEN America.

Read the Complete News Release

Direct to Full Text of Letter Sent to Principal of Hempstead High School

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.