May administrators remove controversial books from school library shelves?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

School officials cannot pull books off library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas in those books. In Board of Education v. Pico, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials in New York violated the First Amendment by removing several books from junior high school library shelves for being too controversial.

The Court said the First Amendment protects students' right to receive information and ideas and that the principal place for such information is the library.

However, in Pico, the Supreme Court also said school officials could remove books from library shelves if they were “pervasively vulgar.” The Court noted that its decision did not involve school officials’ control over the curriculum or even the acquisition of books for school libraries.