BHS weighs in on book banning

Inappropriate content: "Maus," a graphic novel that depicts the Holocaust, sparked controversy after a Tennessee school board banned the book.

By Brooke Magistrelli

On Jan. 10, 2022, a Tennessee school board banned Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, “Maus”. The graphic novel tells the story of the Holocaust using mice to represent the Jews and cats as the Nazis. “Maus” is used to teach students about the horrific treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and allows students to recognize the use of cats and mice as allegories.

According to University Wire, the award-winning graphic novel was claimed to be “too adult-oriented for use in our schools” and was banned due to its “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide.” Despite banning the book, the school board went on to say that they still recognize "Maus" as an impactful piece of literature.

Opponents of book banning argue that the inclusion of violence and suicide accurately depict the events of the Holocaust and is necessary for teaching the full extent of the situation. They even go as far as to say efforts to ban such books attempt to rewrite history.

The banning of “Maus” started an uproar around America and brought attention to other impactful books banned for similar reasons, most of which are used as part of school curriculums. Some of the most commonly challenged books are “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.

Bettendorf High School has not had any books banned from its curriculum or library as of the 2021-22 school year. The school library does hold commonly challenged books including “Maus,” “The Hate U Give” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”

"As a librarian, one of our jobs starting all the way in kindergarten is to help students self-select books…I have a hard time understanding why a book would ever be pulled from a library because I don’t know that any librarian has ever forced a student to check out a book,” said Bettendorf’s librarian Mary Heeringa.

When dealing with Bettendorf’s curriculum, the school offers an alternative for every book used in the language arts curriculum.

“We want to make sure that the material is tied to whatever standards we’re teaching or working with and make sure that it is appropriate for students…there are certain things that we want to make sure are appropriate and non-offensive,” said principal Robert Boley.

If a book were to be challenged at Bettendorf, a parent would have to go to the school board, and, under the Freedom of Information Act, view the school’s content and materials. There would then be a discussion at the Board level as to whether the book is appropriate and the school would need to provide justification for why the book is being taught.

“We want to make sure that our material doesn’t ostracize or make any students feel singled out because of who they are or what they believe. The good thing about a school is that we’re here to help students process and interpret material in a safe setting,” said Boley.


Brooke Magistrelli is a junior. This is her

first year as a staff writer for The Growl.


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