California school district sued for removing books on gays, lesbians

Friday, December 29, 2000

Editor’s note: The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Anaheim Union High School District reached a settlement agreement on March 15, 2001, in federal court. Under the agreement, the 10 confiscated books were placed in a district high school. The books are no longer housed in Orangeview Middle School, but other gay and lesbian books, written at a lower reading level, are available at that facility.

Anaheim, Calif., school district officials violated the First
Amendment by removing 10 biographies of prominent gays and lesbians from a
junior high school library, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern
California charges in a recently filed lawsuit.

Orangeview Junior High School librarian Christine Enterline was told
to remove a series of 10 volumes titled Lives of
Notable Gay Men and Lesbians
by history teacher Ron Dannum, the
suit alleges. It quotes Dannum as having called the books

The Anaheim school’s principal sent the books in September to
the school district office, where they remain. Enterline has made several
inquiries about them, including a written request to school district officials
for their return.

The books profile a number of famous gays and lesbians, including:

The Greek poet Sappho.

Novelists James Baldwin and Willa Cather.

Economist John Maynard Keynes.

Playwright Oscar Wilde.

Writer T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”).

Entertainers Marlene Deitrich, Liberace, and K.D. Lang.

Tennis player Martina Navratilova.

On Dec. 21, two Orangeview students, known in court papers only as
Daniel Doe and Samantha Roe, sued in federal court, claiming a First Amendment

School officials have said the books are too difficult for middle
school students and that the books could cause harassment against students seen
with them.

The complaint in Doe v. Anaheim Union High
School District
alleges that “these explanations are a
pretext for viewpoint-based censorship.”

The complaint claims no other books have been removed from the junior
high library for similar reasons, even though several, such as works by
Shakespeare and Dickens, are more difficult reading.

The ACLU contends that the school officials engaged in
unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by removing the books because they
contain gay and lesbian material.

“This is a very clear case of viewpoint-based censorship, which
is unconstitutional,” said ACLU of Southern California attorney Martha
Matthews. “At its core, this kind of suppression is anti-democratic and
antithetical to the mission of a school and, particularly, of a school library,
which is to encourage inquiry and broaden minds. This kind of censorship is
offensive, cowardly, and damaging to students.”

Enterline said in the ACLU’s news release that she has heard
students use disparaging terms to describe gays and lesbians. She says the
censored books “can play an important role in helping to create a school
environment in which homophobia, like racism and other biases, is addressed and

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