A School District 51 official ordered school librarians to remove a controversial book from circulation last month, a move that circumvented the district’s traditional process for reviewing such materials and raised concerns about censorship.
“Due to recent events and media attention on the Netflix movie 13 Reasons Why, I am going to have this book temporarily removed from any kind of check out,” wrote Leigh Grasso, the district’s executive director of academic achievement and growth, in an email sent to librarians on April 28.
Grasso’s order came after at least seven district students have killed themselves since the beginning of the school year, most recently affecting Fruita Monument and Palisade high schools. According to emails obtained by The Daily Sentinel through a Colorado Open Records Act request, Grasso instructed the district’s cataloguing specialist to tell school librarians who had the book in their school libraries to remove it from circulation, which was met with opposition. Some of the librarians responded that they didn’t feel the action was appropriate, and they cited differences between the Netflix series and the book in their responses.
Librarians also cited the book’s value as the starter to conversations about the difficult topic, and how it helped teachers and students open a line of communication to discuss suicide.
“The novel itself was written as a suicide prevention awareness novel,” a librarian wrote, asking the district to reconsider censoring the award-winning novel.
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