Lane Tech students earn Intellectual Freedom Award after protesting ‘Persepolis’ book ban

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A student protest in March over CPS’ decision to remove the graphic novel “Persepolis” from school classrooms. | Ting Shen~Sun-Times Media

After Chicago Public Schools were asked asked to remove “Persepolis,” a graphic novel depicting one woman’s childhood during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, from seventh-grade classrooms, Lane Tech College Prep students got to work. The resulting protest against the book’s removal has earned the students the Illinois Library Association’s 2013 Intellectual Freedom Award.

The award has been given to the Lane Tech student body and the school’s 451 Degrees Banned Book Club – an homage to Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 about outlawed books – and recognizes their “advocacy for intellectual freedom through their responses.”

In March, Chicago Public Schools removed the graphic novel from 7th grade classrooms because of its “powerful images of torture,” CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett wrote in an e-mail to CPS principals.

Marjane Satrapi, the book’s author, told the Sun-Times, “it’s Chicago, you know, it’s not like some weird state. It’s a big shame, really. I’m absolutely shocked.”

The resulting removal sparked a student protest and the policy was eventually reverse. The Sun-Times reported –

Lane Technical High school students waved signs along Western Avenue after school Friday, chantingNo more banned books! and Let us read! under a freezing rain. Several said they had already read Persepolis as 7th graders. Their principal was told by his supervisor to remove all copies from classrooms and the school’s library, then to return them to the library, he told staffers in an email, without any reason.

Besides the award, the protest also netted students an appearance on PBS’ “Chicago Tonight.”

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