Students in Billings School District are fighting to keep Sherman Alexie's book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" in the curriculum after a local mother filed a request to have it removed.

Of course every parent has a right to decide what her child can read. But she doesn’t have the right to decide what other parents’ children read. Parents who don’t want their child to read this book or any other book in the Billings School District curriculum are free to request an alternative title.

A staple of the sophomore reading curriculum in Billings, this critically acclaimed book uses a real-life style of writing that does not blink at the issues our young people face – especially problems with bullying, social isolation and making difficult choices to better their life over the long-term.

After an initial complaint was filed, the review committee read the book and unanimously agreed “This is a contemporary coming of age novel for young adults, which demonstrates the characters’ struggles with many issues that are still relevant today. The style of writing is humorous, sometime irreverent and portrays his own life struggles and trials in a public school setting.”

However, some parents are pushing forward with an appeal. There will be a public comment session on Monday, November 11 in the Lincoln Center in Billings and many students, teachers and community members intend to go and speak out for freedom of expression. A local student has created a petition on Change.org and has gathered several hundred signatures.

The ACLU of Montana has seen this battle of the banned book before. Both Helena and Geraldine School Districts have faced the same challenges and intellectual freedom won in both instances. Eliminating the book from Billings School District’s curriculum would teach students a dangerous lesson – that the opinion of a few very vocal people can censor free expression. This is contrary to our values as a nation where free speech is a treasured part of our Bill of Rights.

UPDATE 11/11/2013: Board votes to retain book in its curriculum!

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