Book controversy sparks writing contest

Winner gets $250 for “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” essay
August 8, 2014

A new contest asks Delaware high school students what the Cape Henlopen School Board should know about “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” The book – and the school board – have received national attention after the board removed the novel from a summer reading list.

The National Coalition Against Censorship and seven other groups have sponsored the contest in response to the Cape Henlopen school board's decision to remove “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” from the district's recommended reading list for incoming freshman.

The board later voted to replace the book on the list and then remove the entire recommended reading list after complaints surfaced over the board's decision-makeing process. Students are instead asked to read whatever they want to complete honors and college prep class assignments.

Joan Bertin, executive director for the National Coalition Against Censorship, said educational institutions have broad powers in choosing reading material, but if they want to remove an item, there are restrictions.

“When they remove something, they must make sure they abide by the First Amendment,” she said. “Their job is not to bring their personal value system to the schools … The decision to read the book should be between the student and parent.”

In June the school board voted 6-1 to remove “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” after nine parents and a grandparent complained about excessive profanity in the book.

Contest for Delaware students »

The contest will give a first place prize of $250, $150 for second and $100 for third.

Students interested in writing an essay can find more information at Essays are due by Monday, Sept. 1. Winners will be announced during Banned Books Week held September 21 to 27. Winning essays also will be published at

In addition to the National Coalition Against Censorship, the contest is sponsored by American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Delaware Library Association, PEN American Center and Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators.

Board members also questioned how Cape's summer reading list was approved. It included 10 books from the Blue Hen reading list – a list created by state librarians to encourage students to read throughout the summer.

In an earlier interview, Margie Cyr, Intellectual Freedom Committee chairman for the Delaware Library Association, said she did not know of any other school district in the state that used the Blue Hen list as required reading for incoming freshmen.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Kelley said the high school English department decided to use the list. “The list, along with the assignment, was communicated to eighth-grade students at Beacon and Mariner when the high school's library media specialist visited classes at those schools during the last few days of the school year,” he said, adding the list was previously available on the school district website. It has since been removed.

Board member Jen Burton said she intends to make sure policy is in place for future summer reading lists for Cape students.

In the meantime, Bertin said the contest is a great way to give students a voice in the process. Bertin said a student can say why the board should keep the book, or why not, but they need to share something they believe the board should know about the book. The 250 to 500 word essay is an exercise in critical thinking, she said.

“When you add students to it, it adds another dimension,” she said.



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