ACLU, school district settle banned book dispute

The Associated Press
Saturday March 17, 2001

ANAHEIM — Biographies on homosexuals will be returned to a school library under terms of a settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anaheim Union High School District. 

In December, the ACLU filed a federal suit on behalf of two students claiming the district violated constitutional free speech rights when it removed 10 biographies from the library at Orangeview Junior High School. 

Among the banned books was a series called “Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians” and biographies on tennis player Martina Navratilova, economist John Maynard Keynes, and writers Willa Cather and James Baldwin. 

The district approved a settlement during a Thursday night meeting and a motion for approval of the agreement was being filed Friday in U.S. District Court, ACLU attorney Martha Matthews said.  

The student plaintiffs weren’t identified. 

“The two plaintiffs in this case and their families, as well as the two librarians who fought to defend a core principle of their profession – intellectual freedom – deserve the thanks of every student and parent in the district for ensuring an environment that doesn’t shut out the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” Matthews said. 

Protesters staged a noisy demonstration during the Thursday night school board meeting to demand settlement of the lawsuit. 

Board members discussed the lawsuit in closed session, although in open session they listened silently as protesters from both sides urged them to return the books at once or banish them forever. 

They did not publicly discuss a March 1 formal complaint filed against them by fellow board member Alexandria Coronado, who is opposed to returning the books to libraries. 

Coronado charged that the board secretly voted 3-to-1 to settle the lawsuit last month, but then refused to tell the public. The claim states she cast the dissenting vote.  

If her colleagues don’t admit that they have settled and publicly apologize for keeping it secret, Coronado said she would sue them for violating the state’s open meeting laws. 

“Everyone has a right to protest, but that doesn’t mean I think the books should go back on the shelves,” said Robin Bowman, a parent at Kennedy High School.