Chicago students protest after Persepolis pulled from classrooms

March 15, 2013 3:18:46 PM PDT
A student protest outside a high school Friday was triggered by a book controversy in Chicago Public Schools.

The CPS CEO says the book Persepolis is not appropriate for sophomore high school students and younger and has asked that the book only be part of the curriculum for juniors and seniors.

Some are not happy with that decision.

The book was published in 2003. The graphic novel was originally approved for the seventh grade curriculum, but now administrators say it's simply too violent.

The protest drew about 100 Lane Tech students.

"I don't think it's right," said Lane Tech student Melissa Blaze. "Any book, for that matter, I don't think it should be banned. I don't think it should be taken off shelves."

The graphic novel by author Marjane Satrapi is an autobiography of her childhood in Iran during the 1979 revolution.

Persepolis was made into an Oscar-nominated animated film.

The book depicts various acts of violence, including torture, in the context of the revolution, and that's why CPS has now deemed it inappropriate for teaching in 7th grade classrooms and younger, a move to which the American Library Association objects.

"It reflects the totalitarian society that this book is actually all about, because this book is about the Iranian revolution," said the ALA's Barbara Jones.

The book had been approved for this year's 7th grade curriculum, but CPS says CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett decided to pull it from classrooms after reviewing the novel.

In a letter sent to principals, Byrd-Bennett writes, "If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms."

"It's part of the learning experience," said Lane Tech student Adis Hrvat. "You can't really censor it."

CPS says the book can be taught to high school upperclassmen, and will not be removed from any school library, but an e-mail from the principal of Lane Tech High School, which was posted on a website Thursday, says otherwise:

It instructs staff to confirm the book is not in the library and that is hasn't been checked out.

Friday, the teachers union tried to cast the move in these terms:

"I'm kind of baffled by it," said CTU's Kristine Mayle. "The only thing I can think of is they don't want our children reading about revolution as they're closing our schools down."

CPS says the book can be taught to high school juniors and seniors.

A review process is planned to see if the book can be incorporated into the curriculum appropriately for younger students.