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Censorship in Schools and Libraries exhibit poster.

"Censorship like charity should begin at home but unlike charity should end there," said Clare Boothe Luce. This quote is a favorite of the originator and author of the censorship exhibit at the library, Don Parker. The exhibit on the top floor gallery space of the library will travel to another Nassau library after Sept. 24, so library patrons need to visit it this coming week if they haven't seen it already. They also need to stay at least 45 minutes to read all the information said Parker.

Parker, as a member of Long Island Coalition Against Censorship, first created exhibits on censorship information in 1987, focusing mainly on cases in public and school libraries on Long Island and the legal battles that ensued from the threats to the First Amendment to the Constitution. Since then he has distributed at least 150 sets of censorship information for libraries to display in the United States. He now showcases censorship cases from all over the U.S. from the last 100 years. He even includes a Pete Seeger concert, which was originally denied the use of East Meadow High School auditorium in March 1966. The New York Court of Appeals ruled in Seeger's favor: "The state is not under a duty to make school buildings available for public gatherings, but if it elects to do so it is required by constitutional provision to grant the use of such facilities in a reasonable and non-discriminatory manner, equally applicable to all." A year later the concert was performed at the school.

Many of the censorship cases described here involve books at school and public libraries. Some of the banned books include Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and children's books such as In the Night Kitchen, The Chocolate War, Daddy's Roommate, Heather Has two Mommies , Harry Potter and novels by Judy Blume. Also, student publication rights at schools are documented in the Hazelwood case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and decided in 1988 involving a high school newspaper interview with a pregnant student. The fact that students do not lose their constitutional rights when attending public schools was already decided in the Tinker case in 1969. But here the majority found for the school administration, which had removed the offending article from a student publication for pedagogical reasons they claimed, not political. Since then six states have passed laws to protect students' First Amendment rights.

The exhibit contains over 20 large boards most mounted with two illustrations and two descriptions of cases of censorship about which Don Parker has researched. A retired North Shore High School history teacher, Don Parker used as his main resource the "Newsletter of Intellectual Freedom," which can be found in the library. Some other boards have introductory information such as the First Amendment to the Constitution and the definitions of the words, "censorship," "bowdlerize" and "comstockery. One board describes the practice of self-censorship, which involved librarians putting an asterisk on the backs of books to indicate some problem.

As a founding member of the New York Civil Liberties Association in 1961, Parker then became one of the founders of the Long Island Coalition Against Censorship in 1982. This organization helped the Island Trees Public School librarian and student leaders successfully challenge censorship. The event leading to the start of this traveling censorship exhibit was the huge 1984 New York Public Library exhibit on censorship. The first artwork was contributed by Laura Celach, who was then a student at New York Tech. Since Parker keeps updating the exhibit he needed new artwork, which was done by Felicia van Bork.

Parker explained that some libraries don't have the exhibit space that Port does and have to rotate the different boards. He especially likes to reach the smaller libraries and students. The exhibit is booked a least one year ahead in Nassau County. One of his favorite stories of how the exhibit was used with students is from a teacher in Hawaii who sent him student writing inspired by the exhibit and her direction to chose one case and write how you would have dealt with the example of censorship.

Both the NYCLU Nassau Chapter and the LI Coalition Against Censorship sponsored this exhibit.


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