“'Forget books,”'said Rosewater, throwing that particular book under his bed. 'The hell with 'em.' 'That sounded like an interesting one,' said Valencia.”
-Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
In 1975 the “interesting” books for students of the Island Tree School District were nearly thrown under the bed forever. The Island Tree School District was presented with a complaint from the group Parents of New York United that posed a concern regarding the content of library materials. This community was concerned that public school libraries in the district were exceedingly “permissive” with the books they provided for students. The list of books that the Parents of New York United were wary of were: “Slaughter-House Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut; “The Fixer,” by Bernard Malamud; “The Naked Ape,” by Desmond Morris; “Down These Mean Streets,” by Piri Thomas; “Best Short Stories of Negro Writers,” edited by Langston Hughes; “A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich,” by Alice Childress; “Soul on Ice,” by Eldridge Cleaver; “A Reader for Writers,” edited by Jerome Archer, and “Go Ask Alice,” by an anonymous author(New York Times, 1982). The Island Tree School Board complied with the Parents of New York United's concern and took these books off school shelves in early 1976.
Five students, lead by Senior Steven Pico, gathered to object the school board's ruling and filed a lawsuit that made it to the Supreme Court in 1982. They stated that the Parents of New York United's concern was based solely in a complain about the books going against the group's subjective values, and not the objective value of providing quality education to the students of the Island Tree School District. The student's objection to the school board's ruling to remove the “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy.” books garnered attention from free speech organizations and concerned libraries.
When the case made it to the Supreme Court the Justices that presided over the ruling were Justices Powell, Blackmun, Brennan, Stevens, Marshall, White, O'Connor, Rehnquist, and Chief Justice Burger. In a majority ruling of three out of four, Pico and his fellow students were rewarded for their fight for freedom of speech in their education. Though the Parents of New York United continued to raise their concerns about morality in the school system with the presence of these books, they were stunned silent when the Supreme Court set the precedent that the First Amendment of the United State's Constitution played a role in the material public schools could provide for their students.
A precedent was also set to appease the Parents of New York United. The books that had been removed in 1976 were required to have a parental advisory stamp printed on them so that parents could be made aware of the potentially immoral content that their children may have been exposed to. In this instance the Supreme Court Justices exercised an interpretation of the Constitution that has...