CONTACT Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN,, (615) 320-7142
ATHENS, Tenn. – In an effort to defend academic freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent an open records request today seeking information about the McMinn County Board of Education’s recent decision to remove “Maus” from the eighth-grade curriculum.
“Students have a right to learn and receive an accurate, inclusive, and complete education, free from censorship – even if it includes ideas that some may find uncomfortable,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “Studies show that equitable education can increase greater cultural understanding and awareness, helping to build empathy, affirm diversity, and foster greater connection between all students – all things we need today more than ever.”
The First Amendment protects students’ right to receive information and ideas. While school districts and school boards have discretion in choosing the curriculum and materials offered on a school’s campus, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that this discretion must be in exercised in keeping with the First Amendment. School districts’ curricular choices must be related to a legitimate government purpose.
The letter also questions whether the school board followed its own policy manual, which mandates that when instructional materials are challenged, they be kept available for use while a review committee is formed to assess the material and make recommendations.
“The McMinn County school board’s disturbing decision to censor ‘Maus’ flies in the face of academic freedom,” said Stella Yarbrough, ACLU-TN staff attorney. “We join with McMinn County community members in urging the school board to reconsider their decision and rescind this ban.”
The open records request sent today can be found at: