Court stops lawsuits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a black woman’s request to remove “Huckleberry Finn” and a William Faulkner story from the required-reading list at her daughter’s Arizona high school.
Courts cannot “ban books or other literary works from school curricula on the basis of their content … even when the works are accused of being racist,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
The court allowed the parent, Kathy Monteiro, to sue the Tempe Union High School District for allegedly failing to respond to complaints that white students were harassing blacks with racial slurs and graffiti. But the judges said the school could not be required to remove the books as a way to reduce harassment.
Ms. Monteiro had sought to remove Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” from the required-reading list for ninth-grade English classes.
She was unhappy that her daughter, now a senior at McClintock High School, had to read the books, which repeatedly use the word “nigger.”
The lawsuit said the assignment of the books discriminated against black students, created a racially hostile environment and caused an increase in harassment.
U.S. District Judge Stephen McNamee dismissed the lawsuit in January 1997, saying he was aware that the language in the books was offensive and hurtful but did not find their assignment discriminatory.
In Monday’s ruling, the appeals court said a student’s constitutional rights are violated when a book that has educational value, as determined by the school district, is removed from a required-reading list by threat of a lawsuit.
Ms. Monteiro’s lawyer, Stephen Montoya, said the ruling was a victory overall, because the court agreed that a school district cannot allow a racially hostile environment to persist. He disagreed with the court’s response to the complaint about books.
The school district’s lawyer, Allison Lewis, was unavailable for comment. A telephone call to the superintendent’s office was not returned.