Group reports on school censorship in Illinois



WASHINGTON (AP)—A free-speech advocacy group on Wednesday reported it found eight attempts at censorship and other challenges to public education in Illinois schools during the 1992-93 academic year.

The targets ranged from a self-esteem course to a book on the Holocaust by Elie Wiesel to an order against publishing a story in a junior high school newspaper, according to People for the American Way.

The report documents 395 incidents nationwide, compared with 376 in 1991-92. In 41 percent of the cases, the challenged materials were removed or restricted, the group reported.

The incidents listed do not cover every challenge to school materials during the 1992-93 school year. People for the American Way says its research and work by other groups suggests many challenges of school materials are not reported.

The report is based on yearlong research, including mail surveys and interviews with parents, librarians, teachers and school administrators.

In one Illinois case, a student journalist submitted a story about an administrator’s arrest but the newspaper advisers refused to print the account in a junior high school newspaper in Carpentersville, Ill., a suburb about 35 miles northwest of Chicago.

‘‘We felt that it was not the kind of article that was included in our school newspaper. Our school newspaper tends to focus on school-related issues,’‘ said Principal Russell Ballard, who upheld the advisers’ decision.

‘‘We did not view it as a First Amendment issue,’‘ he said.

But People for the American Way classifies the case as one of Illinois’ eight attempted incidents of censorship and other challenges during 1992-93.

‘‘The question of whether a specific event qualifies as censorship or a group of people exercising a democratic right is pretty much in the eye of the beholder,’‘ said Jerry Glaub, spokesman for the Illinois Association of School Boards.

The association encourages school boards to have a procedure for responding to complaints ‘‘so there doesn’t have to be a knee-jerk reaction.’‘

Glaub said officials ‘‘have to walk a kind of well-considered line between the advice they get from their professional staff and the advice they get from their communities.’‘

Education challenges in Illinois dropped to eight from 12, according to People for the American Way. Several dealt with goal-oriented and self-esteem courses.

‘‘They’re not academic at all,’‘ Phyllis Schlafly, head of the conservative Eagle Forum in Alton, Ill., said about some self-esteem programs.

‘‘I don’t believe that amateur psychologists should take over the classrooms,’‘ she said.