Anne Frank’s diary censored by Culpeper schools

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Anne Frank’s diary censored by Culpeper schools

January 29, 2010 12:00 am

By Rhonda Simmons
Culpeper Star-Exponent

Citing sexual passages that might be inappropriate for classroom discussion, Superintendent Bobbi Johnson is defending Culpeper County Public Schools’ decision to censor the unedited version of Anne Frank’s diary.

”The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition” details a Jewish teenager’s two-year experience hiding from Nazis in a confined attic during World War II.

A CCPS book review committee recently chose to pull the 340-page diary from its shelves because 13-year-old Frank writes about her vagina.

”The essence of the story, the struggle of a young girl faced with horrible atrocities, is not lost by editing the few pages that speak to adolescent discovery of intimate feelings,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail to the Star-Exponent Thursday. “While these pages could be the basis of a relevant discussion, they do not reflect the purpose of studying the book at the middle-school level and could foster a discussion in a classroom that many would find inappropriate.”

The move has brought considerable backlash from the community, and people across Virginia read about the story when it ran Thursday on the Associated Press wire.

In Culpeper, the book is usually assigned in the fall to eighth-graders in English class.

The original version, released by Frank’s father, Otto Frank, in 1947 omitted about 30 percent of her most intimate thoughts featuring sexual references and criticisms about her mother and others living in the “Secret Annex.”

But during the 50th anniversary of Frank’s death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the Anne Frank Foundation published the original, unedited version in 1995.

Frank’s diary, which she received on her 13th birthday, reveals her personal story of brutality that Holocaust victims experienced during the German occupation of the Netherlands from July 1942 until her arrest in August 1944.

Before the story broke Wednesday, Culpeper County School Board Chairman George Dasher said he was unaware of the decision to pull the book. On Thursday, school board member Bob Beard also said he found out about it by reading the Star-Exponent.

According to the school division’s “public complaints about learning resources” policy, censorship decisions do not have to be approved by the school board. The CCPS policy states that a review committee — consisting of the school’s principal, librarian, teacher, complainant, parent and/or student — must gather to discuss the matter.

The committee’s responsibility is to read, view or listen to the material in question, read several reviews, check standard selection aids, talk with knowledgeable people about the challenged material, make and file a recommendation with the principal and superintendent and notify the complainant of the recommendation.

”I was aware that there was concern a couple of months ago,” Johnson said. “A parent concern brought to light an instructional concern that parents had not been notified that the class was using the definitive version of the book beforehand. The decision was made to, in the future, use the edited version or play for middle school students. The decision was not made to cease using ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ for instruction.”

Since learning about the recent decision, outspoken readers have posted their opinions — mainly against the recent ruling — online.

One reader said he tried to check out the book from Culpeper County Library, but the branch’s only two copies of the definitive version are either lost or missing. On Thursday, library director Susan Keller said she plans to purchase a few more.

”It has always been a classroom assignment for the schools, that’s one reason we try to keep duplicate copies,” Keller said. “Finding a copy is difficult.”

The CCPS book review committee’s decision isn’t always final.

If requested, the CCPS Administration Committee could review the policy and make a recommendation to the school board.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Peter T says:

    I’m OK with the schools’ choice, as long as the schools tell the students that the class version is a censored one and make the new (complete) version available in the school library … and then leave it to every student to find out what was taken out. Shouldn’t we train young people in using a library by themselves to find what their curiosity desires?

  2. A says:

    Not surprising since Culpeper is behind the times. When I first moved into Culpeper years ago they had a picture of the Last Supper hanging in the school. Said it was a representation of a form of art. It was removed. They also allow students to leave their classroom during the school day to have bible studies in a trailer that at some schools is on school property. This is still going on.

    As for the book, the parts they fear are not a crucial component to the story. At least they’ll allow the edited book in school. I think Harry Potter is still banned. I wonder what other books we read in our youth which are now deemed not appropriate for our kids. Kurt Vonnegut was a favorite of mine in HS which I think is now banned.

    Are we evolving or sticking our heads in the sand?

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