Florida public library holds mock debate on banning books

In honor of Banned Books Week, a county that made headlines for banning books held a mock school board meeting to demonstrate both sides of the debate.

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    The novel "Fade" by Robert Cormier – who also wrote the controversial novel "The Chocolate War" – was the subject of the mock school board meeting held in the Bay County school district in Panama City, Florida.
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For Banned Books Week, some schools put books that often top banned lists on prominent display. Others host readings from frequently banned novels.

The Bay County Public Library of Panama City, Fla., went one step farther, holding a mock school board meeting in Panama City to simulate discussion that would occur if a parent wanted a book banned. [This article originally mistakenly identified the Bay County public school system as the sponsor of the mock school board meeting.] The county made headlines 25 years ago when the district superintendent banned more than 60 books from classrooms and school libraries after parent complaints.

Gloria Pipkin, who was teaching in the district when the famous bans took place, led the meeting and told the News Herald that she wanted the meeting to give participants a “fair sense of both perspectives” in the debate over whether books should be banned.

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The book under mock discussion was “Fade” by Robert Cormier, which tells the story of a teenager who discovers he can become invisible. The novel is often banned or challenged because of sexual content. Pipkin told the News Herald that she chose "Fade" because one of the books that began the controversy decades ago was Cormier’s book “I Am The Cheese.”

During the meeting, a parent who was assigned the name Mrs. Dykes told the board her daughter had started to read the novel, but then came to her saying she felt it was inappropriate, according to the News Herald article. “Dykes” said she believed the book should be banned because of graphic scenes and the lack of consequences faced by law-breaking characters. The person playing the parent said she believed it should be removed from classrooms and the library.

A participant called "Mr. Bill" played the part of the chairman of the English department. "Bill" said many who want to ban books have inappropriate novels in their own homes and pay for TV channels like HBO that make it easy to watch inappropriate content.

“We need to have an open view and allow people to grow,” “Bill” said during the discussion.

But maybe things haven’t changed so much after all: In a 3-2 vote, the mock school board decided to ban the book.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.

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