School censorship: Reading, Writing, and Censorship – Rethinking Schools
Reading, Writing, and Censorship – Rethinking Schools
“Annie On My Mind” is an award-winning novel about two young women who meet at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, fall in love, and struggle with declaring their homosexuality to family and friends. The book had been in the high school libraries in Olathe, KS, without incident since the early 1980s.
Until Dec. 13, 1993. On that day, Olathe superintendent Ron Wimmer unilaterally ordered the book removed from the high school library.
Wimmer said he made his decision in order to “avoid controversy.” In preceding months, “Annie On My Mind” had been the target of protests by religious fundamentalists, and the book had been burned on the steps outside the Kansas City School District offices. Wimmer’s action did anything but avoid controversy, however. Student petitions calling for the book’s reinstatement, rancorous public hearings, and a lawsuit ensued. The School Board in Olathe, a city of 64,000 people 25 miles south of Kansas City, MO, backed Wimmer’s decision. It argued that the schools had a legitimate pedagogical right to teach students that homosexuality is wrong.
Almost two years later, on Nov. 29, 1995, the matter was settled when Federal Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber ruled that the book was removed because the board and superintendent “disagreed with ideas expressed in the book,” not because the book lacked educational merit. Van Bebber ruled that the banning was an unconstitutional attempt to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”
Few challenges to books in our public schools are quite so dramatic. But the controversy over “Annie On My Mind” nonetheless highlights a reality facing teachers and school districts across the country. Censorship is alive and well. Further, it is sometimes part of a larger campaign by conservative or religious fundamentalist groups to impose their particular curriculum focus on public schools and to build support for public school alternatives such as vouchers.
“[T]he urge to censor is hardly the monopoly of any political group,” notes the American Civil Liberties Union. “But the greatest threat today comes from the fundamentalist right, with its ideological hostility to other religious or philosophical systems, to homosexuality, to sex education, and indeed to the basic idea of secular education.”
As with any issue, however, scratch beneath the surface and complexities emerge. Only the minority of censorship controversies are as clear cut as Olathe’s attempt to censor “Annie On My Mind.”
How, for example, are teachers to distinguish between censorship attempts and legitimate parental concerns over a particular book’s appropriateness? What distinctions might be made between complaints about a required book in a required class versus an optional book in an elective class, or calls to ban a book from the school library? Are complaints about curricula potentially grounded in a larger problem of poor relations between a teacher and parents?
Teachers must also address the issue of self-censorship. If certain books are avoided because they are controversial, how does that undercut what should be one of the central purposes of education — to help students learn to critically evaluate and make informed decisions about controversial issues so they can become full participants in this country’s civic and political life?
“The health of a democracy is not so much about how people agree but how they choose to disagree,” argues Don Ernst, director of government relations at the Association for the Supervision of Curriculum and Development (ASCD) and the group’s point person on censorship. “Students need to have the skills, the abilities to critique and analyze a wide array of viewpoints.”
Censorship in school primarily involve issues of curriculum and library materials. Other dimensions of censorship include student speech, teacher speech (particularly around issues of foreign policy and sexual orientation) and, increasingly, the Internet.
There are no hard and fast rules about which books may be targeted. Potentially controversial books range from William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” for its profanity, to Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” because it contains the word “nigger,” to Bruce Coville’s book “My Teacher Glows in the Dark,” because it includes the words “armpit farts” and “farting”. “Where’s Waldo?” was pulled from the Springs Public School library on Long Island because there was a picture of a naked breast on one page — even though, as former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen wrote, the breast was “the size of the last letter in this sentence.” In the Baltimore County, MD school libraries, Kevin O’Malley’s “Frog Went A-Courtin’ ” was placed in a restricted area because of Froggy’s nefarious activities, including burning money and speeding away from the cat police. In West Virginia, this November, the Jackson County School Board pulled 16 books from school libraries including Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” “100 Q&A about AIDS,” and Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October. ”
The prime targets for censorship are books that mention sex, talk about sex education, or deal with gay and lesbian issues. Books are also likely to come under attack if they contain profane language or violence, are seen as condoning “New Age” philosophies such as meditation, are deemed “too scary” for little kids, or don’t teach “proper respect for authority.”
Rarely do those challenging books use the word censorship. “Nobody wants to call himself or herself a censor,” notes Mark I. West, professor of English at the University of North Carolina and author of “Trust Your Children: Voices Against Censorship in Children’s Literature.” Says West: “Everybody says they are protecting children, or they are defending against blasphemy, or defending family values.”
What is Censorship?
The American Association of School Administrators (AASA), in the book “Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers for Schools,” defines censorship as: “[T]he removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational materials — of images, ideas, and information — on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in light of standards applied by the censor. ” The book, published jointly with the American Library Association (ALA), distinguishes between censorship and the ongoing, necessary reality of selecting educationally appropriate materials for the curriculum and school library. As a rule of thumb, the AASA book argues, censorship rests on an exclusion of materials, while selection involves an inclusion of materials “carried out by trained professionals, familiar with the wide variety of available choices and guided by a clear grasp of the educational purposes to be fulfilled.”
There are generally three levels of challenges to school materials, according to Deanna Duby, director of education policy for People for the American Way, a Washington D.C.-based organization opposed to censorship and other attacks on the freedom to learn in public schools.
- A parent who doesn’t want their child to read a particular book.
- A parent, teacher, administrator, or school board member who argues that no one in the class or school should read the book in dispute.
- Someone who is part of an organized campaign, whether of a local or national group, and who goes in ready for a fight and wants to make a broader political point.
The first type of challenge is often worked out at the classroom level when a teacher explains the curricular purpose of a book or how a book with profane language can still have educational merit, or offers an alternative reading assignment to a student. While there is a tendency to sometimes lump together censorship and challenges to books, teachers need to understand that any parent has the right to question the educational appropriateness of a particular book. The Bill of Rights protects not only freedom of speech but the right to petition the government for redress of grievances — and public school teachers are government employees.
Most experts on censorship argue that the line is crossed when the parent demands that no one in the class, or in the entire school, should read the book or material being challenged. Bannings spawned by an individual parent’s complaint seem to be the most common form of censorship, according to groups that track the issue.
“One of our recommendations is that if a parent or student objects to a particular book that is being read by the entire class, the student be given an alternative book,” says Charles Suhor, a representative of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), who often deals with censorship issues. “If the parent still objects, they are in the position of saying they want to not only guide their child’s reading but the reading of other students. And that, we think, is censorship.”
While so-called “opt-out” provisions are not without their problems, they have provided an important safety valve that “defuses the ability of a parent or group to censor books,” argues West. Coming up with alternative assignments can be disruptive to the curriculum and a “bit of a headache” for teachers, West notes, “but a lot less of a headache than spending your afternoons and evenings at a school board meeting justifying why you are assigning a particular book. ”
The clearest cases of censorship involve demands to remove an existing book from the library. Cindy Robinson, associate director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, notes that there are sometimes different issues involved in challenges to materials in the curriculum versus materials in the school library. “When you are dealing with issues in the curriculum, there are questions of whether the material is appropriate to the grade level, to the subject matter, and so forth,” she says. “Whereas in the library, you are talking about voluntary reading and the need for a wide variety of materials so you can fulfill the needs of all children in the school.”
The most explosive controversies, even if not the most common, involve complaints that are part of an organized campaign. Most of these broader attacks are launched by organizations or individuals affiliated with what is commonly called the religious right — religious fundamentalist groups which advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible and which organize politically to impose their religious perspective on public institutions. Some of the most active religious right organizations involved in school censorship issues are the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, The Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and Citizens for Excellence in Education.
One way for teachers to distinguish between legitimate parental concerns and organized campaigns is to look for patterns. Are objections from individual parents worded the same? Are other teachers getting similarly worded complaints? “That’s a pretty good tip-off that the objections may be orchestrated,” says West. “It’s slightly alarming when that happens because those kind of complaints rarely resolve themselves at the teacher level. They almost always end up at the administration or school board level.”
The religious right’s influence also goes beyond concerted campaigns. Often, challenges may come from individuals who merely listen to television or radio broadcasts or receive mailings from religious right organizations. “It’s not that people are meeting in secret,” notes Kate Frankfurt, director of advocacy for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN). “It’s just that the right is very organized in terms of speaking to their members and the broader public, sending out mailings with a call to action, and fanning the flames of misinformation and fears.”
In recent years, the religious right has moved beyond censorship of particular books and is now “much more concerned with broader issues, arguing, for instance, that they don’t want sex education, or multicultural issues, or anything mentioning gay issues,” according to Duby of People for the American Way. In addition to opposing existing books in the curriculum, the religious right is also trying to get their own material in, such as books advocating creationism or an abstinence-only approach to sex education (see Rethinking Schools Vol. 12 #2 for a look at the controversy over creationism.)
Two of the religious right’s main emphases are attacking broad-based sex education curriculum and materials dealing with gay and lesbian issues. Concerned Women for America (CWA), which says it has about 500,000 members and is the largest women’s organization in the country, for years has attacked the National Education Association for its support of “pro-homosexual propaganda.” The CWA also distributes materials such as its leaflet entitled, “Six Action Steps You Can Take To Oppose the Homosexual Agenda in Your Community’s Schools.”
One of CWA’s current campaigns targets the video “It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay and Lesbian Issues in School.” The documentary, which is intended as a resource for teachers and PTAs, looks at how different schools have worked to develop a more inclusive anti-bias curriculum that examines stereotypes and intolerance toward gay and lesbian people.
In an August 1997 fund-raising letter, CWA calls the film “an aggressive new national campaign to put an extremely dangerous pro-homosexual video in every school in America to be viewed by children as young as kindergarten age.” The letter goes on to argue that the video is “being used to guide schoolchildren into ungodly and immoral behavior that leads to death. ”
In their pronouncements before the general public or the mainstream media, religious right organizations usually tone down their rhetoric. Two of their most common arguments are that a book “violates community standards” and/or is not “age appropriate.” Both concepts are important parts of the discussion but are often misused by groups or people attempting to unconstitutionally impose their particular political or religious viewpoint on schools.
Perhaps the best safeguard is to make sure that schools and districts have developed policies which underscore the importance of providing students with a wide range of materials, and which outline how materials are selected. It is also essential that challenges deal with the specifics of the book or materials in question. The vaguer the complaint and the more general the appeal to “community standards,” the more the issue will be prone to political manipulation rather than being decided on its educational merit.
Chanting a mantra of “community standards” begs the question of who defines community and how they do so. Does something in the curriculum violate the standards of the Black community? The white community? The gay and lesbian community? The parent community? The tax-paying community? The school community? Further, appeals to community standards and majority rule cannot be used to circumvent constitutional concerns over freedom of speech.
“Our system is built on two pillars, democracy and liberty,” notes Loren Siegel, director of public education for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The democracy part pertains to the concept of majority rule on issues such as elections, passage of legislation, and so forth. The liberty part pertains to restrictions on majority rule and the protections of minorities, whether they are racial minorities, religious minorities, or political minorities.”
There are certain inalienable rights that are given to every person in the United States by virtue of the Bill of Rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to due process, Siegel underscores. “Those are not up for grabs. … It is just not true that everything in this country is up for a vote. That would mean that if a bunch of white parents didn’t want Black kids in their school anymore, they could vote on it.”
What’s Age Appropriate?
The other common complaint is that a material is not age appropriate. It’s a compelling argument because any concerned parent or teacher is worried about children, especially young children, being exposed to inappropriate books, films, or class discussions. “One of the most common ways that people, who in effect are calling for censorship, get around the stigma of that word is that they use the concept of age-appropriate,” notes West. “It’s a difficult criterion to nail down in real life with real children.”
Issues of age appropriateness are most common in elementary and middle schools. Teachers, parents, and the courts have generally recognized that the older the student, the more that student has “the right to know. ” Of the questions about age-appropriate material, the one that schools seem least prepared to deal with, in part because it is relatively new, is the controversy over discussion of gay and lesbian families in the early elementary classroom.
One problem, says Frankfurt of GLSEN, is that “there’s an assumption that if you talk about gay and lesbian people, the conversation will suddenly focus on homosexual sex. And that would be inappropriate in young grades. … But when we talk about gay and lesbian issues to elementary students, we talk about families, we talk about love, we talk about relationships between two people — not sexual relationships, but the overall relationship.”
In some districts, such as Provincetown, MA, conservatives have argued that the term gay and lesbian should not be used in class before the fourth or fifth grade. But such a prohibition prevents teachers taking a pro-active approach to dealing with issues of bias or being sensitive to the needs of children who may have gay parents. Further, it can even prevent teachers from taking more limited action. For example, it can tie a teacher’s hands from responding to anti-gay name-calling. (Put-downs such as “faggot” or “that’s so gay” are frequent playground taunts.)
“Such playground incidents are teachable moments,” Frankfurt says. “Teachers have a responsibility to let kids know that what they are saying is an insult. It is inappropriate and hurtful not only to people who are gay and lesbian but who may have gay and lesbian brothers, or aunts, or uncles.”
Susan Hinkel, who helped found the now-disbanded Council on Interracial Books for Children, currently heads a non-profit group that works to help schools become more inclusive. When she is told that gay-themed books such as “Heather Has Two Mommies” or “Daddy’s Roommate” are inappropriate for first graders, she answers: “Are there gay families in your school? Are there children of gay families in your school? Children who have relatives who may be gay? If there are, then children are already asking all the questions that are answered thoughtfully in those books. ”
If teachers don’t address questions that children may have about such issues, they are doing them a disservice, Hinkel argues. “When we hem and haw, or we don’t give children a straight answer, we are silencing their questions, we are silencing their curiosity, we are silencing their permission to discuss.”
Hinkel believes that the controversy over gay and lesbian themes is part of a broader pattern of silencing controversy in schools, in part because so many adults are uncomfortable talking about controversial issues. “We need to talk about censorship beyond the confines of print and video,” she says, “and to talk about the dialogue and discussions that are censored in schools, about what is permissible to talk about and what is not permissible. … We work in schools with children who are coming of age and yet the living issues that most affect them aren’t talked about, in particular their identities. We don’t talk about their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, questions of ‘who am I?’ what is my spirituality, what is the difference between spirituality and religion, what is it to be male and female, how are we treating each other? It’s not formal censorship, but it is almost absolute censorship. ”
Sadly, in most censorship cases, administrators or school board members rarely ask the students’ opinions. Parental concerns are often paramount and students’ opinions, let alone their rights, are usually an afterthought. As Quindlen said in a column on the “Where’s Waldo?” controversy, too often parents and administrators succumb “to an impulse that is at the heart of most book-banning in this country. And that is the temptation to treat kids like morons, to sell little people short.”
The Controversial Huck Finn
Of all the books challenged in public schools, probably no other has received more publicity than “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. Controversy was particularly acute in the 1970s and 1980s, when books by non-white authors were far less common in the curriculum and “Huck Finn,” along with Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” were often the only high school literature books dealing with race. In recent years, “Huck Finn” has been dropped from many required reading lists (as have other books from the traditional canon) and is usually offered only as an elective reading or as part of an elective course, according to West.
Complaints about “Huck Finn” have been raised by African-American parents and students who argue that the book’s incessant use of the term “nigger” has a harmful effect on African-American students and contributes to racial animosity and stereotyping. Defenders of the book point out that, despite the surface language, the book at heart is a stinging indictment of the racism of 19th century America. (For a look at how one African-American high school teacher decided to stop teaching Huck Finn, not because he was ordered to do so but because it just wasn’t working with his students, see “Resisting the High School Canon,” Rethinking Schools Vol. 10 #4.) In most cases, schools have tried to reach a compromise that balances parental and community concerns, the need for academic freedom, and the educational and constitutional problems that arise when teachers are given mandates about what books they can or can’t teach. When it comes to censorship, as with other issues of democracy, no strictly legal approach or administrative guideline can substitute for open lines of communication and a process of dialogue that allows everyone to be heard with respect and consideration.
Controversy over the book in the Kenosha, WI, school district provides an example of how the matter is often resolved. In 1995, the superintendent received a letter from John Wright, a representative of the NAACP, asking that “Huck Finn” be removed from the school curriculum because of its use of the term “nigger.” Wright was asked to fill out the form, “Citizen’s Request for Reconsideration of a Book” and the matter was referred to a committee for review. “A high percentage of the committee included African Americans due to the nature of the complaint,” according to a summary of events from the district.
The committee looked at the book’s literary merit, the “particular attitudes and words of its characters,” and the “appropriateness of the book” in the curriculum, including the book’s impact on African-American and white students. It found that there was insufficient cause to exclude the book from the curriculum. But it also argued that it would be inappropriate if “teachers uncomfortable with the tone of the book” were required to teach it.
“While it is the committee’s desire to indicate support for the book, to do so at the expense of the teachers’ freedom to choose appropriate materials is also detrimental,” the committee decided.
The committee also recommended that when the book is used, it is within a context that explains the novel’s historical background and explores issues of racism, language dialects, and the use of racial slurs. The committee also stressed that no student should be forced to read the book. Wright, meanwhile, dropped his threat of a lawsuit when the district agreed that a 1983 version of the book by the Chatham River Press, which was brought in by a teacher and was not a version acquired by the district, would not be used: Illustrations in the Chatham River edition were particularly offensive, with one of them showing a shiftless-looking Joe with a large piece of watermelon and the word “vittles” underneath.
Big Problems for Good Teachers
Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) notes that historically, censorship has tended to be a tool of the status quo and of those in positions of authority. One of its main purposes has been to suppress dissent. Thus it is not surprising that many censorship cases involve issues such as the rights of gays and lesbians, as they move from the political margins and demand their inclusion as full members of society. Societal changes have also brought other issues into the forefront in recent years, such as teenage sexuality, divorce, drug use, sexual abuse, and harassment. Finally, some cases of censorship appear to be part of the general backlash against multiculturalism, diversity, and the opening up of school curricula to a broader array of perspectives than in the past.
Ironically, the teachers who get in trouble over censorship are often the teachers who are most sensitive to connecting their curriculum with their students’ real lives and who don’t flinch when students, either individually or as a class, want to explore such topics. Adults may shun controversy but adolescents often thrive on it. As Suhor of the NCTE notes, “Teachers who plan well and teach excellently are often the very ones who are under attack in censorship cases. ”
What should teachers do, therefore, if a book they are using is challenged? Following are some of the guidelines developed by groups such as the NCTE, the AASA, and the ALA.
- Don’t panic or act impulsively. Some teachers, administrators, and superintendents have a tendency to sidestep controversy by unilaterally pulling a book from the curriculum or school library. This only makes things worse.
- Always try and resolve the issue at the lowest level possible. If a parent is complaining, make sure their challenge is listened to and the parent is treated with respect. Many cases, if handled sensitively, need not get to the level of public acrimony and hearings before the school board.
- For curriculum materials, make sure you can explain the educational value of a book and how it fits into your curriculum.
- Help parents understand that part of learning to read better is acquiring the habit of reading for pleasure. Many children like scary stories, or goofy stories, or gross stories, even if they aren’t Newberry award-winning books.
- Make sure your school and district have established policies in place to both select materials and handle challenges. Make sure the policies are followed consistently.
- If necessary, refer the controversy to a broadly based committee of teachers, educators, librarians, and parents.
- If it appears the issue will not be easily settled, don’t wait to get outside help. This includes legal counsel, help with media relations, and support from national organizations involved in censorship cases. Teachers also need to be aware that what begins as a censorship issue can sometimes end up as a case of alleged “insubordination”.
The unfortunate reality is that a teacher or district can do all of the above and still end up on the front pages of the local newspaper for allegedly promoting smut, or homosexuality, or whatever the charge may be. When that happens, “it’s admittedly going to be tough,” notes Siegel of the ACLU. “But I would say to teachers that if they believe that the books or materials in question serve an important educational function in their curriculum, and if they can articulate that, then they probably have a constitutionally protected right to use that material. ”
As the saying goes, the Bill of Rights is only as strong as the paper it is written on — and the backbone of people willing to defend it.
High School Press Freedom & Censorship
The Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in the case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier defined the level of First Amendment protection public high school students working on school-sponsored publications are entitled to. That case was a follow up to the landmark 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Together, these cases set the standards school officials must meet before they can legally censor student expression under the First Amendment. (State laws and regulations may provide additional protection.)
The links below provide information about how the courts have defined the rights of junior high and high school student journalists.
- SPLC model district policy for high school student media –
A clear school policy protecting student press freedom can prevent many censorship conflicts.
- Fighting censorship after Hazelwood –
For those student publications that are affected by the HazelwoodSchool District v. Kuhlmeier decision, First Amendment protectionshave been significantly reduced.
- Legal guide to Hazelwood and viewpoint suppression –
A Colorado high school student newspaper wanted to publish two editorials — one in favor of a proposed administration plan to make study halls mandatory for underclassmen and one against the plan.
- Guide to Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier –
An SPLC White Paper on the 1988 Supreme Court Case that drastically affected students’ First Amendment rights, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
- First Amendment and Censorship FAQs –
The Student Press Law Center answers your most frequently asked questions about a student’s right to a free press.
- The SPLC First Amendment rights diagram –
Download a diagram determining students’ First Amendment rights by state.
- Sample press release to help combat censorship –
A press release, which provides accurate information — with a point of view — to news media, community members and others who might provide public attention or support is an important tool in getting your message out.
- Don’t be mooted: A student plaintiff’s guide to keeping your case alive after graduation –
Although graduation day is traditionally a time for celebration and for new beginnings, it can bring an unhappy ending to the legal claims of a student who is challenging school censorship. In general, challenges to school policies must be raised by currently affected students. When a student graduates, a court may dismiss her claims as moot.
- Student media guide to due process claims –
When Jill Snyder, an eighth grade student at Blue Mountain Middle School in Orwigsburg, Pa., was reprimanded for violating the school dress code, she decided to take matters into her own hands. After school, Snyder went home to create a mock MySpace page ridiculing her school principal.
- From the hotline: do I have fewer First Amendment rights in a journalism class? –
While it’s true that these are are factors in figuring out the scope of rights, it’s not that simple.
- From the hotline: what do I do when I’m censored? –
We spend a lot of time learning about how the First Amendment is supposed to work and very little time learning what to do when it doesn’t.
- Guide for the private school press –
Do students at a private high school or college have to check their free speech rights at the campus gate when they walk to school each morning?
The answer to that question is a resounding maybe.
- SPLC guide to surviving underground – Although student journalists have traditionally developed skills working for school-sponsored newspapers, magazines and yearbooks, an increasing number have turned to independent or “underground” publications in recent years.
- SPLC model legislation to protect student free expression rights –
Model legislation drafted with the intention of creating the highest quality student publications and the most responsible student journalists.
Book Banning | The First Amendment Encyclopedia
Book banning, the most widespread form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas, or themes. Those advocating a ban complain typically that the book in question contains graphic violence, expresses disrespect for parents and family, is sexually explicit, exalts evil, lacks literary merit, is unsuitable for a particular age group, or includes offensive language. In this photo, Gail Sheehy, author of “Passages,” at podium, right, reads during the “First Banned Books Read Out” in New York, April 1, 1982. The rally protested censorship by school and public libraries of certain books under pressure from right wing religious groups. (AP Photo/Carlos Rene Perez, used with permission from the Associated Press)
Book banning, a form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas, or themes. Those advocating a ban complain typically that the book in question contains graphic violence, expresses disrespect for parents and family, is sexually explicit, exalts evil, lacks literary merit, is unsuitable for a particular age group, or includes offensive language.
Book banning is the most widespread form of censorship in the United States
Book banning is the most widespread form of censorship in the United States, with children’s literature being the primary target. Advocates for banning a book or certain books fear that children will be swayed by its contents, which they regard as potentially dangerous. They commonly fear that these publications will present ideas, raise questions, and incite critical inquiry among children that parents, political groups, or religious organizations are not ready to address or that they find inappropriate.
Most challenges and bans prior to the 1970s focused primarily on obscenity and explicit sexuality. Common targets included D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the late 1970s, attacks were launched on ideologies expressed in books.
To counter charges of censorship, opponents of publications sometimes use the tactic of restricting access rather than calling for the physical removal of books. Opponents of bans argue that by restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think for themselves. Such actions, assert free speech proponents, endanger tolerance, free expression, and democracy. In this photo, author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., speaks to reporters on a federal court ruling calling for a trial to determine if a Long Island school board can ban a number of books, including his “Slaughterhouse Five,” at New York Civil Liberty offices in 1980. (AP Photo-File, used with permission from the Associated Press)
In September 1990, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression declared the First Amendment to be “in perilous condition across the nation” based on the results of a comprehensive survey on free expression. Even literary classics, including Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, were targeted. Often, the complaints arose from individual parents or school board members. At other times, however, the pressure to censor came from such public interest groups as the Moral Majority.
Censorship — the suppression of ideas and information — can occur at any stage or level of publication, distribution, or institutional control. Some pressure groups claim that the public funding of most schools and libraries makes community censorship of their holdings legitimate.
To counter charges of censorship, opponents of publications sometimes use the tactic of restricting access rather than calling for the physical removal of books. Opponents of bans argue that by restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think for themselves. Such actions, assert free speech proponents, endanger tolerance, free expression, and democracy.
Community standards may be taken into account when deciding if materials are subject to censor
Although censorship violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, some limitations are constitutionally permissible. The courts have told public officials at all levels that they may take community standards into account when deciding whether materials are obscene or pornographic and thus subject to censor.
They cannot, however, censor publications by generally accepted authors — such as Mark Twain, for example, J. K. Rowling, R. L. Stine, Judy Blume, or Robert Cormier — in order to placate a small segment of the community. Cormier’s Chocolate War was one of the American Library Association’s Top 10 Banned Books for 2005 and 2006.
Those who oppose book banning emphasize that the First Amendment protects students’ rights to receive and express ideas. The Supreme Court in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico (1982) ruled 5-4 that public schools can bar books that are “pervasively vulgar” or not right for the curriculum, but they cannot remove books “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” The Court’s decision was, however, narrow, applying only to the removal of books from school library shelves. In this photo, Makenzie Hatfield a student at George Washington high school, holds banned books by author Pat Conroy in West Virginia in 2007. The Pat Conroy books “Beach Music” and “The Prince of Tides” were suspended from nearby Nitro High School English classes after parents of two students complained about depictions of violence, suicide and sexual assault. Conroy defended the books in an e-mail reply last month to Hatfield, who teamed with classmates and Nitro students to form a coalition against censorship. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner, used with permission from the Associated Press)
Opponents of book banning emphasize the First Amendment rights of students
Those who oppose book banning emphasize that the First Amendment protects students’ rights to receive and express ideas. The Supreme Court in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico (1982) ruled 5-4 that public schools can bar books that are “pervasively vulgar” or not right for the curriculum, but they cannot remove books “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books. ” The Court’s decision was, however, narrow, applying only to the removal of books from school library shelves.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documents censorship incidents around the country and suggests strategies for dealing with them. Each September, the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores sponsor Banned Books Week — Celebrating the Freedom to Read.
Designed to “emphasize that imposing information restraints on a free people is far more dangerous than any ideas that may be expressed in that information,” the week highlights banned works, encourages citizens to explore new ideas, and provides a variety of materials to promote free speech events.
The American Library Association publishes the bimonthly Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, which provides information on censorship, as well as an annual annotated list of books and other materials that have been censored.
This article was originally published in 2009. Susan Webb is an Adjunct Librarian at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
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In Rhode Island Schools, Censorship Continues Online
Imagine a school administrator telling a high school political science teacher that a whole range of timely topics — for example, medical marijuana, terrorism in the Middle East, gun control, or even politics in general — was off-limits for class discussion. The pedagogical absurdity of it, not to mention the upending of academic freedom it embodies, would seem obvious to most. In school districts across the country, however, a similar type of censorship takes place in the classroom every day, with little dissent.
The censorship takes place invisibly, through the use of internet filtering programs that block certain categories of websites — or even websites that mention specific words — when students use school computers to access the internet. Although primarily designed to prevent access to pornography, the deeply flawed software, and school districts’ widespread embrace of it, has a significant impact on classroom teaching.
In Rhode Island, the ACLU has issued two reports, one in 2013 and the other last month, examining school internet censorship in the state’s public schools, and the results are jarring. In 2013, the ACLU found that, whether by design or just due to the inevitably clumsy nature of such filtering, teachers and their students were blocked from viewing such varied and innocuous websites as those for PBS Kids and National Stop Bullying Day, a video clip of the Nutcracker ballet, and a website on climate change, among many others. One science teacher expressed frustration that a lesson plan of his was ruined when students couldn’t search for information about “polyvinyl alcohol” on their computers because the term contained the blocked word “alcohol.”
Four years later, unfortunately, we found that little had changed. An open records request revealed that school districts continue to block sites that prevent students from researching all sorts of topical subjects. Some districts took the censorship to ridiculous extremes — using their filtering software to block sites designated as “political,” “news,” and even “dictionary.”
Fortunately for Rhode Island educators and students, this abysmal state of affairs may soon change. As a result of ACLU lobbying, the state legislature passed a law last year requiring all school districts to adopt and implement clear, written, publicly available Internet filtering policies. The policies must specify the categories of websites that are blocked, explain the basis for blocking them, and provide a procedure for teachers to request that sites be unblocked in a timely manner. The new law also requires districts to conduct an annual review of their policies in order to address problems of overblocking. In case there was any doubt about the purpose of these requirements, the law makes clear that the goal is to “promote academic freedom in the classroom. ”
A few months ago, the state commissioner of education, working in collaboration with the ACLU, prepared a model internet filtering policy that school districts could use as a template in order to comply with the new law, and some have already begun adopting it.
This is a major step in the right direction.
The internet offers a world of educational opportunities that Rhode Island’s students have been denied because of overzealous filtering software. This new law will go a long way toward ensuring that teachers can bring their full range of resources to the classroom and that students can make use of the wide array of information that the internet puts at their fingertips. This law can also serve as a model for other school districts across the country to consider adopting.
In 1982, a U.S. Supreme Court decision declared that schools could not remove books from libraries “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion. ’” It is time to bring this concept into the 21st century and halt the widespread blocking of online educational resources by school bureaucrats who seem all too eager to employ this unwieldy censorship technology in the shadows.
It Comes in a Variety of Forms, Not All Overt on JSTOR
Publicity concerning school censorship too often centers on the clumsy, heavy-handed, and overt efforts of school administrators or other impact parties to control student speech or publications. In this article, the author contends that such obvious and oftentimes inept attempts at controlling student communication represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. He argues that a much more insidious impact emanates from a variety of more subtle forces that are too frequently overlooked or ignored. He contends that an atmosphere genuinely supportive of open student communication rests in adopting a definition of school censorship that recognizes this reality.
The Clearing House is a must-have for middle school and high school teachers and administrators. Focusing on the “how to” aspect of teaching, the journal offers informative and practical articles on teaching techniques, administrative procedures, school programs, and professional development. Theoretical articles, comparative education pieces, and in-depth examinations of major educational issues also appear. Recent topics include the No Child Left Behind Act, homeschooling, classroom management, teacher performance assessment, mentoring, drug sweeps in school, and distance education.
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Should Schools Be Allowed to Censor Student Newspapers?
Does your school have a student newspaper? If so, do you read it or write for it? What purpose do you think it serves in your school? If not, do you wish your school had one? Why or why not?
Do students have free rein to write what they want in your school newspaper? Should they?
Recently, student journalists found themselves at odds with their school district after writing an article about an 18-year-old student who makes her own pornographic videos. The Times reports:
The Bear Creek High School newspaper has profiled notable students — athletes, budding entrepreneurs, academic whizzes — without incident for decades.
But an article that appeared Friday in The Bruin Voice caused an uproar over free speech, feminism and student journalism, all before it was even published.
The 18-year-old subject is a senior at the school in Stockton, Calif., one of more than 2,100 students.
She also makes her own pornographic videos.
The story about the story follows a pattern similar to other clashes between student journalists and school boards. The Lodi Unified School District, after learning about the planned profile, demanded last month that it be turned over for review before appearing online and in print. The attempted oversight drew far more attention than the article probably would have.
The district said the piece might violate a state rule that it said prevented publications at public schools from featuring “obscenity, defamation and incitement,” and it threatened to fire Katherine Duffel, the paper’s longtime faculty adviser.
In articles, columns, television programs and social media posts, the standoff over an unpublished story became either a symbol of censorship and women’s rights, or the loss of traditional values and a school district’s responsibility to protect young students from harmful content.
In a July 1, 2018 article “Hard News. Angry Administration. Teenage Journalists Know What It’s Like,” Jaclyn Peiser writes about more conflicts like the one at Bear Creek High School:
High schools across the country have pushed back this year against student journalists who have reported on sensitive subjects, like the reaction to school shootings and adolescent sexuality.
In Orange County, Calif., a principal condemned a school publication for a special issue that focused on teenage relationships, calling it “disrespectful and sensationalistic.”
In a town roughly 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, the administration deactivated a school’s news website after student journalists posted an investigative article examining the mysterious dismissal of a history teacher.
And in a suburb of Dallas, a principal forbade the publication of an opinion piece critical of the administration for scheduling events during the National School Walkout protest.
Since 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled that a Missouri school district had acted lawfully in removing a two-page spread on divorce and teenage pregnancy from a student newspaper, administrators have been able to censor work in school publications that they consider poorly written or “inconsistent with the shared values of a civilized social order.” Fourteen states have laws in place meant to safeguard school publications from interference.
The killing of the opinion piece on the National School Walkout protest was the third instance of conflict between John Burdett, the principal of Prosper High School in Prosper, Tex., and the school’s news publication, Eagle Nation Online. The first skirmish concerned an article about the cancellation of “movie day,” a school tradition allowing the class that had raised the most money for a cancer charity to see a movie during school hours. Mr. Burdett disputed the article’s take on the cancellation and ordered the faculty adviser, Lori Oglesbee-Petter, to scrub it from the site.
The article goes on to detail several more incidents:
In Herriman, Utah, an enterprising school publication ran into trouble after digging into a subject that administrators at Herriman High School had tried to keep secret: the reason for the dismissal of a popular history teacher.
Conor Spahr, 18, spent more than a month looking into why the teacher had stopped showing up for his classes last fall. After reviewing public records and interviewing students and teachers, Mr. Spahr reported in The Herriman Telegraph that the teacher “was sending highly inappropriate messages to a female student,” according to an unnamed person described in the article as a “source.” The morning after the article went live, it was gone.
“At first I thought it was a glitch or something,” Mr. Spahr said. “But once we saw the entire website was down, we knew something was happening.”
Mr. Spahr and Max Gordon, The Telegraph’s 18-year-old former editor in chief, created a new website — The Herriman Telegram — and republished the article. In January, news outlets in Utah reported that the teacher was under police investigation on allegations that he had sent inappropriate text messages to a minor.
In a statement, the Jordan School District, which includes Herriman High School, said it “encourages thought-provoking, informative and accurate reporting of all stories in our school newspapers.”
It isn’t only investigative reporting or stories on protests that have pitted student journalists against educators in recent months. Editors and reporters at San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., caused a furor in March with a special issue of The Express called “Relationships & Sex.”
“We had five anonymous stories featuring personal experiences of students from diverse backgrounds and diverse relationships and sexual experiences,” said Olivia Fu, 18, formerly a co-editor in chief of The Express. “They opened up about what it was like for them in relationships in high school.”
In “Long-Term,” a girl describes ending up in an “emotionally abusive” relationship with a boy. In “Waiting Until Marriage,” a heterosexual couple explains why they have decided to abstain from sex. In “Gay,” a male student tells of ending up at a motel room for a sexual encounter with two partners. “Pregnancy Scare” goes into the fears of a sexually active female student, and “Bisexual” presents a male student who says, “I used to hate myself for my sexuality.” The stories were written by Express staff members, who gave aliases to the students they interviewed.
In an email to parents, the school’s principal, Jennifer Smalley, apologized for the “shock and dismay you felt when you opened up the paper.” The publication’s faculty adviser, Bill Kaiser, was put on paid leave. Out of concern for him, the students briefly took down the articles.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— What is your reaction to the conflicts between student journalists and school administrators that you read about? Which of these instances of censorship, if any, were justified and why?
— Since the 1988 Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier decision, administrators have been able to censor work in school publications that they consider poorly written or “inconsistent with the shared values of a civilized social order.” Do you think this ruling is fair? Should schools be allowed to censor student newspapers to protect students or the school’s reputation? Or should student journalists have free rein to write about whatever they want?
— In your opinion, are there any topics that should be off limits in school newspapers? If so, which ones and why? If not, why not? For example, should these publications be allowed to criticize the school administration, investigate teachers or write about sensitive subjects like teenage sexuality and school shootings? Why or why not?
— Has your school ever faced a similar crisis in which students were prevented by school administrators from saying or writing something? In your opinion, was this move necessary to protect students? Or did it cross the line into stifling free speech?
— Britt Masback of Portland, Ore., one of the winners of our 2018 Summer Reading Contest, wrote about the July article:
Journalism is most effective when it informs and challenges its readers and expresses divergent opinions. I would argue that this is even more important among teens, who are in the throes of exploring issues and developing values. Today’s student newspapers offer a much-needed alternative to the adult-centric media, giving teens the opportunity to cover topics relevant to them. In 2018, no issue has provoked more youth expression (and youth activism) than the tragic shootings on school campuses. School papers have provided a needed outlet for the expression of student angst about shootings.
Do you agree that student newspapers “offer a much-needed alternative to the adult-centric media, giving teens the opportunity to cover topics relevant to them”? In your opinion, how important is it for teenagers to have a place to read and write about the issues that matter to them? Where do you go to express yourself or hear from people your age? How would you feel if you knew that space was controlled by adults?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.
Censorship and Banned Books in Schools
While reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in school, teachers often spend full class periods discussing a very important issue: Mark Twain’s use of the ‘n’ word throughout the book. It’s important to not only explain that the book must be looked at through the context of the time period but also what Twain was trying to do with his story. He was trying to reveal the plight of an enslaved person and he was doing so with the vernacular of the time.
Students may make wisecracks, but it’s important to address their humor with information. Students need to understand the word’s meaning and Twain’s reasons for using it.
These conversations are difficult to have because they are controversial and many people are very uncomfortable with the ‘n’ word—for good reason. Due to its origins in enslavement and racism, it is often the topic of disgruntled phone calls from parents.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the 4th most banned book in schools according to Banned in the U.S.A. by Herbert N. Foerstal. In 1998 three new attacks arose to challenge its inclusion in education.
Reasons for Banned Books
Is censorship in schools good? Is it necessary to ban books? Each person answers these questions differently. This is the core of the problem for educators. Books can be found offensive for many reasons.
Here are just some reasons taken from Rethinking Schools Online:
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Reason: Rape scene, “anti-white.”
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Reason: Profanity.
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. Reason: Drug use, sexual situations, profanity.
- A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck. Reason: Depiction of pigs mating and being slaughtered.
More recent books that were challenged according to the American Library Association include the Twilight saga due to its ‘religious viewpoint and violence’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ because it was unsuited to the age group, sexually explicit and too violent’.
Many ways exist to ban books. Our county has a group that reads the questionable book and determines whether its educational value exceeds the weight of the objections against it. However, schools can ban books without this lengthy procedure. They just choose not to order the books in the first place. This is the situation in Hillsborough County, Florida. As reported in the St. Petersburg Times, one elementary school will not stock two of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling because of the “witchcraft themes.” As the Principal explained it, the school knew they would get complaints about the books so they did not buy them. Many people, including the American Library Association, has spoken out against this. There is an article by Judy Blume on the website for the National Coalition Against Censorship to be very interesting. It’s title: Is Harry Potter Evil?
The question that faces us in the future is ‘when do we stop?’ Do we remove mythology and Arthurian legends because of its references to magic? Do we strip the shelves of medieval literature because it presupposes the existence of saints? Do we remove Macbeth because of the murders and witches? Most would say there is a point where we must stop. But who gets to pick the point?
Proactive Measures an Educator Can Take
Education is not something to be feared. There are enough hurdles in teaching with which we must deal. So how can we stop the above situation from occurring in our classrooms?
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Choose the books you use wisely. Make sure that they fit nicely into your curriculum. You should have evidence which you can present that the books you are using are necessary for the student.
- If you are using a book that you know has caused concerns in the past, try to come up with alternative novels that students can read.
- Make yourself available to answer questions about the books you have chosen. In the very beginning of the school year, introduce yourself to parents at an open house and tell them to call you if they have any concerns. If a parent calls you there will probably be less of a problem then if they call administration.
- Discuss the controversial issues in the book with the students. Explain to them the reasons those parts were necessary for the author’s work.
- Have an outside speaker come to class to discuss concerns. For example, if you are reading Huckleberry Finn, get a Civil Rights Activist to give a presentation to students about racism.
Ray Bradbury describes a situation in the coda to Fahrenheit 451. It is about a future where all books are burned because the people have decided that knowledge brings pain. It is far better to be ignorant than knowledgeable. Bradbury’s coda discusses the censorship that he’s faced. He had a play that he sent to a university to be produced. They sent it back because it had no women in it. This is the height of irony. Nothing was said about the content of the play or the fact that there was a reason it featured only men. They did not want to offend a certain group at the school: women. Is there is a place for censorship and banning of books? It’s hard to say that children should read certain books in certain grades, but education is not to be feared.
Russia: Censorship of Youth Music | Human Rights Watch
(Moscow) – Music censorship is spreading in Russia, with authorities interfering with the concert activities of rappers and other popular performers among young people and forcing them to cancel performances, thereby violating freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today.
According to independent online media outlet Meduza, in October-December 2018, at least 36 concerts in various cities were canceled due to government interference.A large portion of the case featured rap and hip-hop performers. The list also includes punk rock and electronic music performers. In most cases, the authorities voiced references to the need to comply with legislation to protect minors from the promotion of suicide, drugs and other harmful substances. At times, the authorities also referred to the ban on “gay propaganda”.
“Under the guise of protecting children from harmful information, officials are trying to impose censorship in music,” said Tanya Lokshina, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
Cancellation or disruption of speeches took place on the initiative of the local prosecutor’s office, police, FSB, municipal administration and Rospotrebnadzor.
Most often, the cancellation of a planned performance was caused by an official warning to the site operator about the inadmissibility of violating the legislation on the protection of minors’ rights and / or about the consequences if the concert did take place. Pretexts such as allegedly received information about an explosive device or violations of sanitary standards are also practiced.In a number of situations, pressure on the site was apparently provoked by statements from groups of disgruntled citizens.
Human Rights Watch interviewed six lawyers and one executive travel manager who had the most serious problems. We reviewed six legal warnings for concerts in six cities and collected information on forced cancellations of performances from artists’ social media pages and media reports.
The rapper Husky, one of the leading Russian performers in this genre, seems to have faced the most serious problems. Under pressure from the authorities, site operators canceled his performances in Togliatti, Volgograd, Vologda and Samara. In Rostov-on-Don, his concert was disrupted by the police. In Krasnodar, a performance was canceled in one place, then the police disrupted the performance at another site, after which they detained the rapper, who went outside to his fans and began to sing. This incident caused a wave of indignation in the creative community, and several famous rappers organized a solidarity concert in Moscow.
In a video message on social networks, one of the initiators of the concert, rapper Oksimiron, said: “This is chaos. If at the moment he does not have the opportunity to freely express himself and earn his living honestly, then at least with the second we can all help him. … I do not share a large number of his views and actions, but despite this, and maybe that is why, I consider it necessary to help him in this difficult situation … This is not so much and not only about the Husky, but about all of us and about the future music in Russia ”.
In Nizhny Novgorod, the authorities forced the operators of two sites to cancel the performances of the electronic duo IC3PEAK. In Kazan, two venues canceled a concert, the third was disrupted by the authorities. In Perm, concerts were canceled at three locations, and performers were followed. In Novosibirsk, one venue canceled an appointed concert, and the performer and tour manager were detained by the police for three hours. In Krasnoyarsk, their performance was disrupted. In Voronezh, Rospotrebnadzor threatened to close the site, the police tried to disrupt the concert.
In Krasnoyarsk, the popular group “Friendzona”, which is popular among teenagers, was canceled by three venues. In Kemerovo, the police, city hall and prosecutor’s office forced the site operator to cancel the performance an hour before the start, although the group agreed to raise the age limit from 12+ to 16+ or even 18+. Pressure from the authorities was also the reason for the cancellation of the performances in Vologda and Volgograd. The Friendzone manager decided to cancel the remaining nine performances, as the group did not consider it possible to continue the tour in the current situation.
Cases of cancellations of performances were widely reported in the media and were accompanied by a loud chorus of statements from officials and politicians who condemned popular performers among young people.
So, at a round table in the State Duma with the participation of rappers on December 7, 2018, the head of the Interdepartmental Interaction Department of the Main Directorate for Drug Control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Vitaly Khmelnitsky argued that “this work should not expose the disgusting and low vices of people pushing them to commit crimes and offenses, but to cultivate the values of leading a worthy, full and healthy life, serving the country and society. “
By the end of November, several officials spoke out against the cancellation of the concerts. A high-ranking official of the Ministry of Culture, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi, compared the ban on rap to the persecution of some rock musicians in the USSR in the 1980s, and the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Kiriyenko called the bans on concerts “stupidity” and called on the functionaries of the ruling party to learn to “work with modern youth culture ”.
In December 2018Vladimir Putin commented on the situation, recalling that rap is associated with drugs, sex and protest, and remarking: “If it is impossible to stop, then you need to lead. And guide accordingly. … The way … to grab and not let go is ineffective. ”
In January, the General Prosecutor’s Office instructed its territorial divisions to check the legality of cases of cancellation of rapper performances in a number of regions. So far, there are no tangible results of such checks.
In January-February, Husky, IC3PEAK and Friendzona did not go on tour, so the prospects for the development of the situation remain unclear.It can only be noted that on February 13, the Kaliningrad company “Macroconcert” announced the cancellation of hip-hopper Eljay’s performance on February 16 “due to great pressure from government agencies and non-profit civil organizations.” The management of the “Macroconcert” – the organizer of the event – announced that the reason for the intervention of the authorities was, in particular, a petition on change.org, the authors of which demanded to cancel Elj’s concert, since his work “contains aggressive propaganda of vulgarity, alcohol, glamor, and other destructive meanings that have a destructive effect on both children and adults. “
Freedom of artistic expression is part of the freedom of opinion and expression and is protected by international law, in particular article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In her report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights Farida Shahid notes that “a creative person should be able to explore the dark sides of humanity, describe crimes or things that might be considered by some to be“ immoral ”. and not be accused of encouraging such phenomena. “
“The Russian authorities must stop censoring concerts,” says Tanya Lokshina. “Their actions are not protecting anyone and are part of a wider assault on freedom of expression.”
The 436th Federal Law “On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” adopted in 2010 prohibits the dissemination of information and images related to suicide, drug use, etc. among minors. In 2012, in its development, the 139th federal law was adopted, which introduced a list of prohibited Internet resources and age marking for publications, broadcast materials, films, performances, etc.e. In 2013, the 135th federal law, better known as the “gay propaganda law”, appeared, prohibiting the propaganda among minors of “denial of traditional family values” and “nontraditional sexual relations.” Article 6.17 of the Code of Administrative Offenses provides for liability for the distribution of relevant information materials to minors, including those containing profanity or encouraging the consumption of alcohol and prohibited substances.
Husky (Dmitry Kuznetsov) became widely known among Russian rap and hip-hop fans after the release of the debut single “October 7th” in 2011 on the birthday of Vladimir Putin. The song tells of a king feasting while his subjects vegetate in poverty. In January 2018, Husky entered the top three most popular rappers according to the online rating. His videos and lyrics are replete with metaphors and imagery related to violence and sex. Husky videos are gaining millions of views; on the VKontakte social network (VK) he has more than 243 thousand.subscribers.
On October 26, 2018, the planned Husky concert in Togliatti was canceled. The performer himself and the organizers of the performance on social networks wrote that the reason was a prosecutor’s warning to the owners of the site. The rapper said on his VK page that the prosecutor’s office, in particular, had questions about his song “Poem of the Motherland”, where there was a line: “Do you remember, you died, and we ate your meat …”
In Samara, two weeks before the performance, scheduled for November 4, the prosecutor’s office checked the concert venue for “observance of the rights and legitimate interests of minors and youth”, as a result of which it issued a warning about the need to label the event with the age category 18+.The owners of the venue notified the organizers of the concert that they would not be able to host it.
In mid-November 2018, at the request of Roskomnadzor, YouTube blocked access to the Husky clip “Judah” for Russian users. On January 9, 2019, the department explained that this address was included in the register of prohibited ones “on the basis of the decision of the authorized federal executive body (the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia)” as containing “information on the methods, methods of development, manufacture and use of narcotic drugs …” In the clip there are shots where cigarettes are twisted and smoked.At the time of this preparation, the clip remained inaccessible to Russian users on YouTube.
On November 20, 2018, in Rostov-on-Don, right before the start of Husky’s performance, two police officers and several people in civilian clothes appeared on the site. As reported on the page of the tour in VK, they handed his manager a written warning “to prevent the implementation of extremist activities and violations of legal requirements during a public event.” The manager signed it, but the director of the site asked the performer and his team to leave, and the security stopped letting the audience in.The sound and lighting were turned off in the hall. As a result, Husky sang in the dark and without a microphone.
In Krasnodar, the concert was scheduled for November 21, 2018, but at the last moment the first site refused, having received a prosecutor’s warning that some of Husky’s songs contain “calls to commit suicidal, violent actions, extremist manifestations, drug propaganda.” The performer’s managers agreed to move the performance to another location, but there, immediately after checking the sound, the electricity was cut off.As a result, Husky went outside to the fans, climbed onto the roof of a random car and began to sing. Two minutes later, the police pulled the rapper out of the car and took him away.
Husky’s lawyer Alexey Avanesyan told Human Rights Watch:
At 19:30 the organizers called me and said that some detachments of Cossacks, vigilantes, police were gathered near the club, that at the entrance there was a large crowd of spectators who bought a ticket … and the lights in their club were turned off … They asked me to come figure it out, and when I arrived … I saw how he [Husky] climbed onto the car.He began to sing, and everyone began to sing along … It was at 20:40, and literally at 20:42 the police detained him … They pulled him by the legs, tied him by the arms and dragged him into the patrol car.
Husky spent the night at the police station, and on November 22, the court appointed him 12 days of arrest in the case of “petty hooliganism.” His managers had to cancel further appearances in six cities. On November 26, the arrest was unexpectedly canceled and the rapper was released. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan wrote on her Twitter that this happened thanks to the intervention of the Presidential Administration: “When two or three people in the Presidential Administration are outraged by what happened, it usually ends well.”
The Husky’s problems, however, did not end there. As reported in the media, a few days before the performance scheduled for December 2, 2018 in Vologda, the site administration contacted the performer’s manager and said that they had to cancel the concert, since the prosecutor’s office and the police would otherwise close the club.
In the creativity of the “Friendzona” group, one can trace the motives of such genres as pop, rap and punk with elements of acoustics. Its target audience is predominantly teenagers.The group addresses the topic of teenage anxiety with references to school discos, teenage sexuality, alcohol and smoking. Clips and promo materials are made in the style of a bright palette of “caramel” colors and visualization in the spirit of bubblegum pop. The growing popularity of the group is evidenced by the rapid increase in the number of subscribers to its VK page. The page appeared in April 2018, and now it has almost 360 thousand subscribers. The most successful hit to date “Boychik” scored more than 11 million views on YouTube.
The group’s tour manager, Anastasia Zaitseva, told Human Rights Watch that their November-December 2018 tour was disrupted due to pressure from local authorities on concert venues. In particular, it was pointed out that the age marking in the advertisement is indicated as 12+ (the age of consent in Russia starts at 16), therefore, there may be a violation of the legislation on the protection of children from harmful information, including the prohibition of gay propaganda. Human Rights Watch has four such documents, which claim that Friends Zone music encourages minors to drink alcohol and illicit substances, provokes suicidal thoughts in them, discourages respect for traditional family values, and promotes “non-traditional sexual relationships.”
According to Zaitseva, the authorities, in particular, drew the attention of the site owners to the content of the song “Bottle” with girls kissing at a “pajama party”. There are words: “And I cannot forget her lips on my lips. Bottle, spin! … Love does not depend on gender. ”
The tour manager assured the administration of the sites that the group was ready to exclude this “problem song” from the program, like any others to which the authorities had complaints, and also to change the age marking to 18+.However, the owners were frightened enough by the warnings and preferred not to associate with the group at all in order to avoid consequences.
In some cases, the venues canceled the concert at the last moment, in one case the tour manager was warned about the cancellation in advance.
On November 12, 2018, Friendzona was supposed to perform in Krasnoyarsk, but the concert was suddenly canceled by the site administration. The band agreed to perform elsewhere, but there was a cancellation.In third place, an hour before the sound check, Zaitseva learned that the site manager had been invited to the prosecutor’s office. She said that she herself went there immediately, but she was not allowed to talk. Later, one of the prosecutors showed the friendzone’s tour manager a copy of the warning given to the administration of the third site, which indicated that the concert was fraught with violation of the legislation on the protection of minors. Zaitseva photographed the document and Human Rights Watch reviewed its contents.It cited, in particular, a reference to an appeal received from the local ombudsman for the rights of children, in which it was stated that the songs of the Friendzone propagandize alcohol, suicide, etc., and that tickets were sold with a 12+ marking.
The local branch of the Anti-Dealer project declared with undisguised satisfaction that the “abomination called the‘ friend zone ’” in Krasnoyarsk had failed. “Singing to children about drugs, same-sex love and debauchery is a crime against the nation,” the activists say, calling on “other cities in Russia not to allow children to attend concerts of this group.”
On November 13, 2018, a concert in Kemerovo was to take place at the Friendzone. Less than an hour before the start, the venue manager told Zaitseva: “Sorry, we can’t hold your concert. We got a call from the [city] administration. Your age limit does not match. ” Anastasia suggested changing the age marking to 18+, but then a municipal official arrived at the scene, accompanied by the police and the prosecutor’s office, with a letter where “it was strongly recommended to cancel the concert.” After that, the site administration asked Zaitseva and Friendzone to vacate the premises.
In Vologda, on the eve of the concert scheduled for December 4, 2018, the site administration received a prosecutor’s warning about the inconsistency of the age marker 12+. Zaitseva suggested changing the marking to 18+, but the venue canceled the performance anyway. The warning reported, in particular, that the prosecutor’s office is reacting to the appeal of the local ombudsman for children’s rights.
In Yaroslavl, a few days before the concert scheduled for December 5, 2018, the local prosecutor’s office contacted the organizers.The organizers changed the age label to 16+ and removed a few songs. However, as Anastasia Zaitseva told us, on the day of the concert, the administration of the site received a call about unscheduled checks from about 10 authorities, including the anti-extremism department, the prosecutor’s office, as well as firefighters and the sanitary and epidemiological station, “which suddenly needed to check the kitchen.” As a result, Friendzone had to cancel the concert in order not to create problems for the owners of the venue.
Concert in Ivanovo on December 6, 2018has also been canceled. “Pressure, threats from the security forces. It is simply impossible to hold a concert under these conditions, ”the group’s VK page reported in this regard. After that, all further performances were canceled.
IC3PEAK is a duet of Anastasia Kreslina and Nikolai Kostylev. The members of the group position themselves as representatives of “Russian horror-hip-hop”. The songs touch upon topics perceived by the Russian authorities as “sensitive”: politics, LGBT people, drugs.The latest clips are made in the gothic style. Some of the images appear to be deliberately shocking. The group page in VK has 167 198 subscribers. The latest album “Fairy Tale” includes the most famous hit of the group “There is no more death”, which was released at the end of October 2018 and by the middle of February 2019 gained almost 19 million views.
In the video “There is no more death” Kreslina pours herself with kerosene against the background of the House of Government of the Russian Federation, and Kostylev drops a match, then they eat raw liver against the background of Lenin’s mausoleum and play “okay” sitting on the shoulders of two men in riot police uniform and equipment on background of the FSB building on Lubyanka.There are also episodes when they sink, showing a spot of ash against the backdrop of the Government House. The text talks about police raids, suicide, personal destruction and drugs.
After the release of “Death Is No More”, the band faced government interference in concerts in at least 10 Russian cities.
A few days before the concert scheduled for November 22, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, representatives of the local Emergencies Ministry appeared on the site and demanded to cancel the performance.On November 19, the organizers agreed with another site, however, fire inspectors arrived there, who demanded to cancel the event, otherwise threatening to close the club for allegedly violating fire safety rules. At the last moment, the organizers managed to find another venue, where the concert eventually took place.
Human Rights Watch contacted Timur Miftahutdinov, a lawyer from the international human rights group Agora, who provided legal support for IC3PEAK in Kazan.He spoke about the pressure that had to cancel the concert scheduled for November 23, 2018. According to him, the first club received a call from the city administration. The group moved the performance to another venue farther from the center, however, shortly before the sound check, representatives of the city authorities, the FSB and the police arrived at the scene and demanded that the performance be canceled. The group moved to the third venue, but after the first 30 minutes of the concert, representatives of the authorities also appeared there, forced the club’s administration to turn off the electricity and forced everyone to leave the premises.According to the police, a call came in about mining, but Miftakhutdinov, who was at the concert, claims that the police did not take any actions provided for in such cases:
There was no more electricity, and Nastya [in the dark] sang the song “There is no more death” without musical accompaniment. This track ended, and people began to disperse. The police officers appeared in the building only after everyone had practically left … We were already leaving. The colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was meeting us: “Come out, come out! Everyone, leave the premises. “If there was a fear of an explosion, instead of the colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs there would be a specialist: a sapper, a dog handler …
In Perm, where the IC3PEAK concert was scheduled for November 27, 2018, two venues canceled their performance due to pressure from the authorities. Agora’s lawyer Olga Bederson, who provided legal support for the group in the city, told Human Rights Watch about this. According to her, the musicians managed to find a third site, but at about 19:30, about an hour before the performance, an FSB officer appeared there, accompanied by the police, who for some time talked with the administrator of the club in private.After that, the administrator announced to the group that there would be no concert. The police told fans to disperse, threatening to prosecute otherwise for disturbing public order. The audience began to disperse.
As the lawyer told us, some security officials in civilian clothes drove the group into the fenced back yard of the club. One said at the same time that they had an order “to escort the guys out of the city.”
Olga Bederson arrived at the scene at about 20:00 and tried to explain herself to the security forces:
“The guys have tickets [for the train] from Perm the next day… What is the point of taking them outside the city? … What are they accused of? ” And this man replied: “They are not accused of anything.” … But at the same time “for their safety” he must accompany them.
As a result, the musicians were allowed to get into the car. The lawyer kept in touch with them until they left Perm the next day. According to her, the security officials drove a taxi with the musicians to the house, where they spent the night, and kept watch outside the house until the morning, and in the morning they followed them to the station.
In Tyumen November 29, 2018the local prosecutor’s office issued a warning to the Press House, where the IC3PEAK concert was to take place on the 30th. The administration was warned about the inadmissibility of violating the legislation on the protection of the rights of minors, and also pointed out that the site does not have a “safety data sheet” confirming the anti-terrorist security of the facility, and therefore “holding events with a mass presence of people is unacceptable.” The administration of the House of Press did not cancel the concert.
The media also reported that on November 28, 2018.the venue in Novosibirsk, without explaining the reasons, informed the tour manager of the group, Oleg Mitrofanov, about the cancellation of the concert scheduled for December 1. The group managed to find another site. On December 1, IC3PEAK were detained by the police upon arrival in Novosibirsk.
As soon as they got off the train, the police approached the musicians and said that the service dog had sensed something in their luggage. Kostylev and Mitrofanov (the first – in handcuffs) were taken to the nearest department. Kreslina immediately contacted a local lawyer from Agora, Valentin Demidenko, who soon arrived at the scene.
Demidenko told Human Rights Watch that Kostylev and Mitrofanov were detained for allegedly “anonymous reporting of drugs.” They searched both of them and their luggage, found nothing, and released them three hours later. According to the lawyer, the police behaved politely, but refused to disclose the names and departmental affiliation of the officers who made the arrest. After that IC3PEAK performed at another venue without incident.
On December 2, 2018, the group planned a concert in Krasnoyarsk, but the day before the performance, the site administration canceled it, citing problems with the electrical wiring.Soon after the arrival of the group and their tour manager in this city, they received a call from the local E Center and invited them to talk. The tour manager went to the meeting accompanied by Agora’s Krasnoyarsk lawyer Vladimir Vasin.
Vasin told Human Rights Watch that the police officers behaved correctly, warned them that they would monitor the event, and promised that if documents were checked taking into account the age limit and there were no excesses with alcohol, “then there will be no problems.”After several unsuccessful attempts by the group to find a venue, a place was found, and the concert went off without incident.
On December 6, 2018 in Voronezh, on the day of his speech, a representative of Rospotrebnadzor appeared on the site and said that he had to take samples in connection with the received signal about contaminated food. Local IC3PEAK lawyer Nikita Chermashentsev told Human Rights Watch that the inspector left without completing any documents. About an hour later, shortly before the start of the concert, the police arrived, who reported that the inspector had received a complaint about obstruction by the administration, and presented an order to Rospotrebnadzor to temporarily close the institution.“I personally spoke with one of the employees, who explained to me that they had an order to disrupt the event,” the lawyer told us.
The police blocked the entrance, but Mitrofanov led 50–70 fans through the service entrance, and the band performed almost the entire album for them.
“If someone from Rospotrebnadzor was not allowed to inspect the facility, I very much doubt that they [the police] will come. And even if they do, it will not be in such numbers and not so quickly, ”said Chermashentsev.
IC3PEAK’s rest of December concerts passed without incident. On December 23, 2018, a post appeared on the group’s VK page, which, in particular, said:
Thanks to the publicity in the media and the help of human rights activists, the last few concerts of the tour in the Russian Federation were censored, and they passed without problems. When it became clear that the security forces would interfere with us absolutely everywhere, we could simply cancel the tour. But we decided to go all the way to show by our example that music cannot be banned.
School newspaper: a game of survival
There are a lot of topics of interest for teenagers: first love, misunderstanding of parents, foggy future, part-time job, religion, education, Internet heroes, movies and books, subcultures. To make a newspaper unique, you need to be dodgy and unpredictable, you need to embody creative ideas on paper, conduct experiments, talk about those about whom no one will ever tell, not be afraid of serious topics and touch on complex issues, by any means to produce a wow effect.Students’ materials should inform, educate, educate, entertain, make them think. For example, juniors from the St. Petersburg newspaper “Epigraph” are not even afraid of economic and political topics. Children who are carried away by these issues are able to create, if not a strong analytical text, then a live report from shops for the rich and the poor, from Aprashka or the flea market on Udelnaya, speculate on the crisis and help the poor, talk about food sharing and shelters, write an author’s column about “ Charlie Hebdo “, elections to the State Duma and the construction site of the century -” St. Petersburg Arena “, to find out how the god-forgotten Lennauchfilm lives.
Self-censorship is worse than censorship
Teachers in response to calls to raise serious issues in the school newspaper say:
What are you ?! The director will not allow us to write about this!
They have not tried it yet, but they are already sure that they will be banned. From the very first steps in the profession, young journalists distance themselves from serious topics, but only self-censorship is more terrible than censorship. When an adult himself is afraid to raise sensitive issues and turns a children’s publication into a booklet serving the interests of the administration, he teaches children not about journalism.
Nobody calls to investigate school accounting and go with a pitchfork against the authorities. There are many topics that are not related to school, but require the attention of a children’s publication. Is it forbidden to write in a newspaper, for example, about cruelty to animals or about the life of children with disabilities? In school publications, you can take a global problem and consider it from personal experience, on a smaller scale – the problem of school canteens, and school uniforms, and school corruption.If the guys talk about tyrant teachers, then let them not talk about those who teach with them (this will not be ethical), but collect stories from other schools. In contrast, you can consider the other side of the medal – talk about your favorite teachers or make a selection of cool teachers who are not indifferent to their subject.
But if the headmaster does not know about the prohibition of censorship in Russia, does not allow writing about the same school cafeteria and about parents who are dissatisfied with burnt food, this does not mean that the topic is taboo.Not everything that is discussed in the school of young journalists should be published.
90,000 Death penalty and censorship. How politicians and public figures want to counter the “school shootings”
On Tuesday, May 11, a former student, 19-year-old Ilnaz Galyaviev , fired at in Kazan school # 175. According to the latest information, the attacker killed eight children and one teacher. Another 18 students were injured and are in the hospital. Immediately after the tragedy, politicians and public figures began to speculate about what could have caused the attack on the school and how school shootings could be prevented.Briefly about the proposals made – in the material “MBH Media”.
The leader of the A Just Russia party, Sergei Mironov, proposed to abolish the moratorium on the death penalty. According to him, such a punishment should be applied to criminals who killed children. The MP believes that the threat of execution can stop potential murderers.
Leader of the Fair Russia party Sergei Mironov. Photo: press service of the State Duma of the Russian Federation
Recall that shortly before the tragedy in Kazan, Galyaviev began to conduct the Telegram channel “God”, in which he announced that he was going to commit mass murder and then commit suicide.The channel is now blocked.
Ban on media publications about school shooting
The head of the LDPR party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said that such situations occur due to the fact that such episodes are covered by journalists. The State Duma deputy explained that the publications “provoke imitators who like that they are discussing this all day.” According to Zhirinovsky, it is necessary to ban the media from talking about the shooting in schools.
Leader of the LDPR party Vladimir Zhirinovsky.Photo: Kremlin press service
A similar proposal was made by MMA fighter Alexander Shlemenko. According to him, it is necessary to protect children from such content. The athlete believes that the more the media talks about such incidents, the more they will occur.
“For example, as I am a little familiar with the topic, I can say that the more pedophiles are shown on TV, the more of them there are. We cooperate with the Federal Penitentiary Service, and if earlier there were 1-2 pedophiles, now there are 10-15 of them arriving at the stage.Also with this, we are shown on TV: he opened fire, this one – well, we will have this too! You just need to be very selective, censor some things. If we don’t do this, then get ready for such moments! ” – he explained to reporters.
To entrust the protection of schools of the Russian Guard
Sergey Goncharov, Honorary President of the International Association of Veterans of the Alpha Anti-Terror Unit, said that in order to prevent such tragedies, it is necessary to reform the security system of Russian schools and other educational institutions.According to him, the fighters of the Russian Guard could cope with such a task.
Honorary President of the International Association of Veterans of the Alpha Anti-Terror Unit Sergey Goncharov. Photo: Agency “Moskva”
“We must realize that security, consisting of over-aged men and women, who are called watchmen by the common people, are not the structure that can protect our children. If we want to approach the issue seriously, then there will be nothing terrible if we give the schools under the protection of the Russian Guard.They have a large staff, they will be able to protect our children and grandchildren, ”he explained.
Goncharov’s initiative was supported by Yevgeny Bunimovich, Honored Teacher of Russia and former Children’s Ombudsman of Moscow. According to him, being the ombudsman for the rights of the child, he had already raised the issue of transferring the function of protecting schools to the National Guard or the police, but this did not lead to anything.
Change the rules for obtaining weapons
Tatiana Moskalkova, Ombudsman for Human Rights in Russia, proposed raising the minimum age for possession of a weapon to 21, making an exception for those who have served in the army.At the same time, Moskalkova did not explain why the ban should not apply to those who served.
Tatyana Moskalkova, Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia. Photo: Kremlin press service
“We have no right to save on the lives of children, adolescents and young men,” she stressed.
In addition, the Public Council under the Ministry of Internal Affairs intends to consider at the next meeting the issue of toughening the rules for issuing medical certificates for the possession of weapons. The head of the council, Anatoly Kucherena, said that in the event of such incidents, it is necessary to bring to justice the doctors who issue the relevant documents to mentally ill people.
And the State Duma, on May 18, may consider in the first reading a bill on toughening the issuance of licenses for the acquisition of weapons, in particular on additional grounds for refusing to obtain a document.
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After the shooting in the Kazan school, the children’s ombudsman of the Russian Federation proposed to introduce censorship on the Internet
May 12, 12:59, 2021
The law on “pre-moderation of information” should work in social networks and on the Internet in general, when moderators read records users before publishing.Such a proposal was made by the children’s ombudsman of the Russian Federation Anna Kuznetsova after the shooting in Kazan gymnasium No. 175.
Photo: Anna Kuznetsova’s Instagram
19-year-old Kazan resident Ilnaz Galyaviev came to the gymnasium and opened fire on its employees and students. Seven children and two adults were killed, 23 people were injured and are in the hospital. A few days before the attack, he started a telegram channel, in which he called himself a god and threatened to “destroy a huge amount of bio-waste.” The channel was blocked after the attack on the school.
“Did the attacker post threats on the social network? A new federal law on the pre-moderation of information should work … we need to protect our children from dirt, pseudo-heroes that have flooded the information space. To fill the information world of our children with creative meaning and high values, ”Kuznetsova wrote on her Instagram.
The Ombudsman also called on to check whether Galyaviev had acquired weapons legally and why two weeks before the attack he was expelled from the college where he studied in recent years.Kuznetsova drew attention to the fact that there are not enough school psychologists in Tatarstan – there are only 576 specialists per 1,400 schools. In addition, out of 1800 buildings of general education organizations in the republic, only 1605 are protected. In the past few years, there was no security in gymnasium No. 175, and its functions were performed by a 62-year-old watchman.
The Ombudsman promised to address all these questions to Roskomnadzor, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor’s Office. According to her, it is necessary to develop new measures in the country, in particular, to adjust the rules for issuing weapons, as well as to ensure the continuity of work on the prevention of mental disorders in people over 18 years old.
We work in the interests of our readers. If the presence of such a media is important to you, please support us with a donation. 90,000 “Rude and blatant censorship.” How Artdokfest was closed in St. Petersburg
The international documentary film festival “Artdocfest”, the leading documentary film competition in Russian, was disrupted in St. Petersburg. The halls of the House of Cinema, where the opening of the festival took place, are sealed, its second site – “Lendok” – refused screenings, fearing the same fate. Correspondent Sever.Realii figured out who got in the way of documentary films.
“Artdokfest” was to be held in St. Petersburg for the seventh time. The organizer of the festival is the directorate of the National Prize in the field of non-fiction films “Laurel Branch”, the director of the festival is Vitaly Mansky. “Artdokfest” opened on April 3 at the House of Cinema with the film “Rastorguev” by Evgenia Ostanina about director Alexander Rastorguev, he was killed in the Central African Republic (CAR), where he filmed an investigation film about the activities of the “Wagner group”, which is associated with the name of a businessman close to the Kremlin Evgenia Prigogine.Spectators noticed a police car near the House of Cinema even before the start of the festival, but they were still allowed to watch the film “Rastorguev”, but during its discussion with the director and the widow of the documentary filmmaker Yevgenia Ostanina, three employees of Rospotrebnadzor, accompanied by a group of police officers, entered the hall. They photographed the hall several times, and when the audience left, they sealed both halls in which the festival screenings were planned.
Employees of Rospotrebnadzor seal the hall in the House of Cinema
“Artdokfest” had one more site – the open film studio “Lendok”.On April 3, on her Facebook page, one could read: “Wednesday. Long live Belarus!” – a special block “Artdokfest”, which contains films about the recent past of the country that created that Belarus, about the resourcefulness and fearlessness of which the whole world learned in 2020. ” “Kolya Kuprich about the employees of the Belarusian Free Theater and” Alone “by Nikolai Khalezin, Natalia Kolyada and Andrew Smith about the soloist of the rock group Boombox Andrei Khlyvnyuk.On the morning of April 4, the Lendok film studio invited viewers to the screenings, but towards evening the organizers of the Artdokfest were told that these screenings would not take place. “In connection with the inspection of the cinema center of the House of Cinema and the subsequent closure of several halls, as well as inspections at the” Lendoc “, we decided to cancel the screenings of the” Artdocfest “program – in order to avoid provocations and the closure of our cultural center. We sincerely apologize to the audience,” – this entry appeared on the official page.
According to the press secretary of “Artdokfest” Olga Komok, now we can say with confidence that the festival has been disrupted, but its organizers still have no idea what could have caused it.
The police came to the “Artdocfest”
– The police captain, who arrived at the House of Cinema, told us personally on record that Timur Bulatov ( is a well-known fighter against LGBT who regularly disrupts protest actions and seeks the dismissal of people on the basis of non-traditional sexual orientation – SR ). Moreover, the next day this Bulatov called the festival telephone with a threat. He introduced himself and asked if we had enough fun, and promised that soon it would be even more fun.
– “Artdokfest” was supposed to last until April 10, are you going to find other venues for it?
Rospotrebnadzor is following us on our heels
– Having reasoned sensibly, we realized that no search for a new site, either Sunday evening or Monday morning, would lead to the slightest success. Rospotrebnadzor is following us. They, together with the police, came to Lendock on Sunday to check if he really canceled the shows? Is the cinema closed for sure? They were not at all worried about the number of people in the cafe in front of the cinema, they were interested in why we were here, and they were completely satisfied with our explanations that we were turning back viewers, because “Landock” independently canceled all our shows.Nevertheless, they tried to take explanations from us for a long time. They arrived according to some kind of statement, but they did not show it to us. Now we will find out whose statement this is, on what basis Lendoc terminates the contract with us unilaterally. It is clear that we have a different relationship with the House of Cinema – the halls there were sealed, and this is not their fault. Now an act should be drawn up, with which the lawyers of the House of Cinema will go to Rospotrebnadzor, and then to court – this standard procedure will take a long time, and while it is going on, there will be no screenings in the sealed halls, the tickets will have to be returned to the audience.
– Do you have any idea who closed the festival and why?
– No. We build versions – maybe someone is not satisfied with the figure of Mansky, maybe they didn’t like the fact that we are showing a film about Rastorguev. We do not believe in the personal organizational talents of Timur Bulatov, who would have instigated several territorial police departments and the city Rospotrebnadzor so that they would come to us all the time.
– Does the name of Prigozhin come to mind, because a native of his structures recently headed the St. Petersburg TV channel?
Moving to any other site will now be for us a violation of the accreditation of the Ministry of Culture
– This channel, two days before the start of the festival, withdrew from us its own information partnership, asked to erase, wherever possible, their logos.All these are versions – we can only guess who Artdokfest interfered with in St. Petersburg, although it is going well in Moscow. And this year we were absolutely sure of ourselves – we received accreditation from the Ministry of Culture. We are now subject to the rules of film festivals: that they can be held at such and such venues, such and such films can be shown there – with a rental certificate, without a rental certificate, on such and such dates. All these documents were submitted in advance to the Ministry of Culture, and even the transfer of the festival from December to April was agreed by the Ministry of Culture.They saw our entire program, both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, with dates and venues. That is why the transition to any other site will now be for us a violation of the accreditation of the Ministry of Culture.
– Do you think that the disruption of the festival is a purely Petersburg story?
– I’ll put it very bluntly: not necessary. It all started in 2014 with a wild attack by Medinsky ( at that time he was Minister of Culture – SR ) personally against Vitaly Mansky in connection with his assessment of the Ukrainian events.Then Medinsky said that Lavrovaya Branch would no longer receive a penny of state money. But in 2014 and 2015, when everything was heated around Artdokfest, it went relatively well. Yes, we enjoyed the increased attention of law enforcement agencies, but the screenings were never disrupted, even when we had the sharpest films dedicated to LGBT people or the events in eastern Ukraine. And this year we have the softest program, there is nothing acutely political, nothing about minorities, but we are getting a complete iron curtain.
Vitaly Mansky’s film “Gorbachev. Paradise” will not be seen by the audience for a long time – it lives a festival life, which means that it will not be on the Internet for a long time. Viktor Ginzburg’s “Neskuchny Garden” from a parallel non-competitive program was filmed in 1993 and restored especially for the festival. In total, 36 films were supposed to be shown in St. Petersburg, of which the audience saw only one. Olga Komok assumes that even if there is a site that will let the disgraced festival in, it will be closed immediately, and it is unlikely that Artdokfest can afford to expose anyone so strongly: here the problem is already turning into an ethical plane.
There was practically no politics in the St. Petersburg program, it was mainly art cinema
– The fact remains: the festival is being strangled, squeezed into the Internet, where it cannot exist, – says the curator of Artdokfest in St. Petersburg Tamara Larina . – But if it were a systemic history, when they are trying to destroy us, then we would be closed in Moscow too – and here we are perplexed. Neither Vitaly Mansky nor I have a version – yes, maybe it came to us from Prigozhin’s side, maybe from somewhere else.Timur Bulatov, of course, is controlled by someone, but we do not know who. But I guess everything comes from the federal level. They were following us too closely, and if the “Lendok” had not been closed for us, the people in uniform would have closed it themselves. Of course, “Lendoc” could, like the House of Cinema, stand to the last, but they were afraid for their future work that they could be fined. As a human being, I can understand them, but as a partner it was cowardly. And it’s bad that they are juridically pushing our heads together, we now have to figure out who is to blame for the disruption of the festival – a site that was not ready according to sanitary standards, or a festival that carries some values that are not traditional for this state.I cannot imagine that the film “Rastorguev” contains some kind of LGBT propaganda, but after all, it was this film that we came to see. In the St. Petersburg program there was only one tape about a Chechen gay who emigrated to Belgium, but there are no scenes, nothing at all. There was practically no politics in the St. Petersburg program, it was mainly art cinema.
– And what did the employees of Rospotrebnadzor and the police tell you?
– They repeated several times that they must work out an application that there is a violation of sanitary standards, LGBT propaganda and that there are minors in the hall.When they made sure that everyone was wearing masks, there were no minors and there was no LGBT propaganda either, then they began to find fault with the site: somewhere the surface was not wiped, somewhere in the toilet there was no dispenser with an antiseptic. And they sealed exactly the two halls where the screenings began. Although there are three more halls and a cafe, whose visitors also use this toilet – so it was not an accidental check, but the execution of the “face” command. Arriving at “Lendok”, they said that they had just come to warn us that, according to the application received, we might have violations.But, even after learning that the site was closed, they tortured us for another two hours, they wanted an explanation.
Producer of the film “Rastorguev” Evgeny Gindilis came with Rastorguev’s widow, director Evgenia Ostanina to the opening of the festival, which began with this film.
– We very briefly presented the film at the very beginning, honored the memory of Alexander Rastorguev with a minute of silence, then I went out into the hall for a minute and saw a rather large group of police officers who showed some documents on their phones, on the basis of which they needed to check whether in the film of LGBT propaganda, are there minors in the hall, – says Gindilis.- With them were women from Rospotrebnadzor, who said that they needed to check if there were any sanitary and epidemiological violations. They were going to go into the hall, turn on the lights, start checking passports and disrupt the show. This did not happen thanks to the courage of the organizers and the fact that we told them that this does not fit with the image of St. Petersburg as the cultural capital of Russia, and that it would be an outrage against the memory of Alexander Rastorguev and the audience. Then the policemen and these women went somewhere to call – they did not want to make a decision themselves and asked for reinforcements.And when it arrived, the show had already ended, and the film critic Masha Kuvshinova and I had a short discussion – then they went in and started taking pictures, and when the last spectators left the hall, they said that the festival could not be held here. They did not explain anything, they said – if you have any questions, come to court.
This is an act of state censorship under the cover of the police and Rospotrebnadzor.
We are witnessing how crude and blatant censorship prevents people who do not violate the law from watching the films they want to watch.This is an act of state censorship under the cover of the police and Rospotrebnadzor – it is illegal, anti-constitutional, and this is happening with the full connivance of those people who should have stopped it.
Now the organizers of “Artdokfest” have to find out on what basis the contracts between the festival and the venues that hosted it can be terminated. And the House of Cinema and “Lendok” will have to return the money to the audience. All tickets for some of the “Artdokfest” films have been sold out. “In the meantime, in Moscow we are working in full.The mind cannot understand Russia “, – wrote on his Facebook page Vitaly Mansky .
90,000 Rosgvardia at matinees and lists of “unreliable”: how the regions responded to the tragedy in Kazan
- Anna Rynda
level vying with each other began to come up with ideas on how to prevent similar tragedies in the future: from introducing censorship on the Web to strengthening the protection of schools.The Russian service of the BBC has studied what similar measures are already being introduced or discussed at the regional level.
Photo author, Alexander Demianchuk \ TASS via Getty Images
On May 11, a mass murder of schoolchildren took place in Kazan – the worst in its consequences since the Kerch shooting in 2018. 19-year-old Ilnaz Galyaviev shot the students and teachers of school No. 175, from which he graduated in 2017: nine people died, another 21 were injured.
List of “suspicious” students
The Ministry of Education and Science of the Murmansk region instructed educational institutions to compile lists of students and graduates of 2018-2020, “prone to discipline and illegal actions.”The ministry’s document contained a link to an online spreadsheet, which was supposed to enter the data of “suspicious” students and graduates.
A photograph of the document was published by the telegram channel “Polar Day 51 Murmansk”. Oppositionist Leonid Volkov drew attention to the fact that the form by reference was in the public domain, that is, anyone could open it.
The table contained the first and last names of students, dates of birth, numbers of educational institutions and the names of classes or educational groups of “suspicious” students from the Murmansk region.
The grounds for adding a student or graduate to this list, according to media reports, were the following characteristics: “brought a pistol with bullets”, “obscene language”, “vagrancy”, “brought knives to school”, “was fond of military equipment”, “ smokes. ” The list included those who: “are in Navalny’s group, oppose Russian legislation,” “a participant in an action in support of Navalny,” “freedom-loving, showing a clear desire to get rid of borders.”
On Wednesday, February 12, the Minister of Information Policy of the region Alexander Belyaev confirmed that officials, together with the security forces, are conducting “preventive monitoring of adolescents prone to illegal actions.”But he denied that the data was in the public domain in the first place.
“Now we are checking the accuracy of the information that has appeared on the network. It cannot be ruled out that the data was deliberately disclosed and made public, ”said Alexander Belyaev.
The regional prosecutor’s office began checking the appearance in the public domain of the list of “suspicious” students and graduates. After publicity in the media, the link became unavailable.
Locked doors and Rosgvardia at the matinee
In the Novgorod region, the authorities decided to lock the doors of schools during classes.Matinees and proms will only be held within the classroom or study group, the regional administration said.
Photo author, Mikhail Metzel \ TASS via Getty Images
At every school festive event (matinee or graduation party), police or Rosgvardia officers must be present, the authorities decided. Parents’ meetings in the Novgorod region are being transferred online. Regional security forces were instructed to check all owners of weapons under 30 years old.
In Kurgan, it was decided to close the entrance to kindergartens. “Parents will be able to enter the preschool institution only by phone call,” said Elena Sitnikova, deputy head of the city. She added that the alarm buttons were checked in schools and kindergartens.
After the execution in Kazan, it turned out that there were no guards in the 175th school – only a panic button, which the watchman managed to press.
Security and panic buttons
Acting Governor of the Penza Region Oleg Melnichenko proposed to introduce new requirements for security guards.Guards, according to the head of the region, should be handled by young people with good physical fitness. He offered to raise the salaries of security guards in educational institutions, but did not specify at whose expense.
Melnichenko ordered to pay special attention to the work of psychological services and class teachers. They are instructed to focus on families that “cause a certain amount of concern in terms of the psychological climate, the emotional state of children.”
The head of the Omsk region, Alexander Burkov, instructed to strengthen the access regime and control over the contributed property in all educational organizations of the region.
Similar measures – tightening the access control at schools, checking the health of emergency call systems – are being taken, according to the authorities, in the vast majority of regions of the country.
The equipment of educational institutions with technical means for providing in the regions varies.
In all schools of St. Petersburg, according to the assurances of the authorities, there are professional guards from 93 private security companies. All educational institutions of the city have panic buttons, metal detectors and video surveillance.
In Rostov-on-Don, according to the city administration, 70 schools and kindergartens are under the protection of a private security company or the National Guard. The rest 198 have watchmen. All kindergartens and schools have panic buttons, said Elena Kozhukhova, deputy head of the city administration for social issues.
What was discussed at the federal level
At the federal level, first of all, the authorities began to tighten the legislation in the field of arms trafficking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to tighten the issuance of weapons licenses.The relevant committee of the State Duma recommended that such a bill be adopted in the first reading.
The document introduces a ban on issuing a weapon license to Russians with two or more convictions or an administrative penalty for drunk driving. In the media and on the Internet, a ban is imposed on instructions for the manufacture of firearms, their alteration and restoration.
How this could have prevented the Kazan tragedy is not specified in the document. State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein said in his telegram channel that the shooter had received permission to store firearms two weeks before the attack.
As in 2018, after the Kerch massacre, federal politicians again raised the topic of tightening censorship on the Web and the media, and even discussed the return of the death penalty.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin proposed to ban anonymity on the Internet to combat the propaganda of violence and extremism. “The Internet accessible to all brought with it not only progress, but also problems that have become a serious threat, especially for children. Their health, psyche. Even life, ”the State Duma speaker wrote in his telegram channel.
Photo by Yegor Aleyev \ TASS via Getty Images
“It is important to do everything to enhance the role of the family, strengthen it, as well as support the organization of leisure activities for children and adolescents, involve them in sports,” he added.
Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova developed the idea of toughening the Internet with proposals to “pre-moderate information” on the Internet. “Did the perpetrator publish threats on the social network? The new federal law 530, which came into force on February 1 on the pre-moderation of information, should work, ”the ombudsman wrote on Instagram.Such a law will help protect children “from dirt, pseudo-heroes that have flooded the infospace,” she is sure.
Senator Alexander Bashkin proposed to tighten control over the content of computer games, in which he saw “the glorification of violence”. “In these games, scraps of meat fly, blood splashes, continuous violence – this can be extremely dangerous for the still undeveloped teenage psyche. It is in the Internet sphere that it is worth strengthening measures, tightening control, in particular, over computer games glorifying violence,” I am convinced senator.
He did not cite any scientific research linking school shootings to video games.
LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky proposed to prohibit the media from publishing any information about the shooting in schools. “This provokes imitators who like it being discussed all day, <...> painful vanity is the main motive for such attacks,” Zhirinovsky said.
The head of A Just Russia Sergei Mironov came up with the most radical initiative: after the shooting in Kazan, he spoke in favor of the return of the death penalty.
“Well? Are there still opponents of the death penalty for killing children? Or will everyone blame the imperfect judicial system? This is how scum come to school in broad daylight and kill children. Could there be judicial errors in this case? The question is rhetorical! ” – said Mironov.
In response, Senator Andrei Klishas recalled that according to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the return of the death penalty in Russia is impossible.
Senator from Tuva Lyudmila Narusova in an interview with “Rise” suggested that the Russian Guard should be involved in the protection of schools – instead of spending “huge money” to disperse rallies.
The State Duma adopted a law on the regulation of educational activities :: Society :: RBC
Earlier, cultural figures wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin.According to the authors of the letter, the bill introduces restrictions on educational activities and creates preconditions for censorship.
Photo: Evgeny Epanchintsev / RIA Novosti
Deputies of the State Duma adopted in the third, final reading a law that introduces restrictions on educational activities.Information about this was published in the legislative base of the lower house of parliament.
Amendments are made to the Law “On Education”. Educational activities include activities “outside the framework of educational programs.” In an explanatory note to the project, the authors noted that the current law “creates the preconditions for the uncontrolled implementation of a wide range of propaganda activities by anti-Russian forces in the school and student environment under the guise of educational activities.”
“It is not allowed to use educational activities to incite social, racial, national or religious hatred, for agitation promoting the exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic affiliation, their attitude to religion, including through messages of inaccurate information about the historical, national, religious and cultural traditions of peoples, as well as to induce actions that contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation, ”reads the text of the document.