Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kentucky Writing Project Teacher in Censorship Struggle

Censorship, alive and well and thriving in Kentucky? Yes, and Risha Mullins, a teacher in Montgomery County, Kentucky can well attest to it. Sally Martin, Director of the Eastern Kentucky University Writing Project, has taken up her cause along with prominent writers like Laurie Halse Anderson whose work, Twisted, (along with Chris Crutcher's Deadline) have been removed from the classrooms. Read what Martin says:

Many of you know Risha Mullins, who was a 2008 participant in the Holocaust Education Network (HEN) Institute in NYC with Sondra Perl. She presented at the KWPN Fall conference describing the work she's done in her classroom this past year, using the holocaust to raise issues of social justice in her classroom to expand her students' thinking. Ironically, at the same time she is being heralded by the HEN for her work, she is having young adult literature books--initially one of the holocaust readings she used, then Chris Crutcher's Deadline, Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted--removed from her classroom. Even though these books were there as books of choice, only, and the school's Review Committee approved them, the superintendent overruled their decision, on all but the holocaust novel, and held the books back. Additional actions by school officials have Risha very concerned for her job.

Risha sponsors an after-school bookclub that has numbered over 100 members who raise their own money to buy books and have travelled with Risha to the University of West Virginia for a workshop with Nikki Giovanni and to Washington, DC to tour the Holocaust Museum with a survivor and board members of the HEN. Just this weekend, Risha learned that she achieved National Board Certification. She has written her own young adult novel set in modern times in a holocaust context that is being read by Penguin, as well. She is an excellent and inspiring teacher.

At the ALAN breakfast this morning at NCTE, Laurie Halse Anderson recognized Risha in front of the 600 in attendance as the key example of the seriousness of censorship. Risha is recieving much support in this challenge from HEN and other parties outside of Kentucky, but I would like to have her home, KWPN, support her across the state, as well. According to Risha, a reporter from the Lexington Herald Leader has written a story on the heated conflict in Montgomery County which is going to be published very soon. If you will, please notify your TC's and request that they act on Risha's behalf. I suggest that we send letters to the paper in response to the story--when it is published--either by mail or on the website. Another approach would be simply to email Risha with your support.

Thank you,

Here is the link to the school board's page with email addresses that you can use to show support for Mullins.
Here is the link to the superintendent in question:  Daniel Freeman,
The county newspaper is the Mt. Sterling Advocate whose editor is Jamie Vinson-Sturgill,859-498-2222,  Here is their letter to editor submission page. 

Below you can see Mullins on the left with author Laurie Halse Anderson. Spread the word.  Use the information above and make a difference today.


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