PERSEPOLIS WATCH: When is a banning not really a 'banning'?... CPS 'Chief Executive Officer' Barbara Byrd Bennett issues 'clarification' about the non-banning of the novel Persepolis, which earlier had been banned in more than 500 of Chicago's real public schools....

After leading all of the city's so-called "Networks" (which in other large cities are called sub-districts) into ordering principals in Chicago's more than 600 public high schools and elementary schools to remove the graphic novel "Persepolis" from libraries and classrooms, on March 15, the school system's Chief Executive Officer changed her position. After the scandal of the censorship became known across the city's mass media, the Chicago Teachers Union responded to the latest outrage against public education. Teachers and students began holding "read-ins" with the novel, reporters began calling the headquarters of the nation's third largest schools system, and finally the CPS "Office of Communications" late in the afternoon issued a clarification containing an email statement from the CPS "Chief Executive Officer".

The following email was received by Substance from the CPS "Office of Communications" in mid-afternoon on March 15, 2013. This was more than two days after Chicago principals and librarians began receiving orders to ban Persepolis, and almost as long after Substance (and apparently other news outlets) began receiving copies of directives issued by school principals following orders from higher authority. In CPS current jargon, "Chiefs" are, in the instance of the statement by Barbara Byrd Bennett below, so-called "Chiefs of Schools" (in other large cities, and previously in CPS history, Subdistrict Superintendents).

Chicago today has many many "Chiefs" as a visit to the CPS website demonstrates (although the listings of the Chiefs is usually out of date on the website, since they change often; e.g., the person listed as "Chief Instruction Officer" (Jennifer Cheatham) has of late decamped to Madison Wisconsin, where she has become not a "Chief" but the superintendent of Wisconsin's second largest school district.

Since mayoral control and the corporate/military model for school reform took over Chicago, there has been a proliferation of "Chiefs." Chicago today has at least 56 "Chiefs" with various titles from "Chief Executive Officer" to several "Chiefs of Staff" working under the command of various other "Chiefs."

The nation's third largest school system, Chicago, is currently under the command of a "Chief Executive Officer," who has a "Chief Education Officer" and a "Chief Instruction Officer." These are assisted, as a visit to the current CPS website will show, by many other "Chiefs," from the "Chief Administrative Officer" (Tim Cawley), the "Chief Communications Officer" (Becky Carroll, below), and many other "Chiefs" -- all the ways down to 24 "Chiefs of Schools" -- one for each "Network."

As usual, Barbara Byrd Bennett did not hold a press conference or answer reporters' questions about the Persepolis controversy. Instead, another email was sent around to the distribution list of media (which usually does not include Substance)...


Chicago Public Schools, Office of Communicatoins, 125 S. Clark St., 6th Floor, Chicago, IL...

We hope the letter attached and pasted below will clear up confusion around this issue. Chicago Public Schools is not asking schools to remove this book from their libraries as has been rumored. Please see the letter below which should clarify our position.

Please call me at 773-553-1620 or Becky Carroll at 773-553-1558 if you need further information.

Regards, Robyn Ziegler


March 15, 2013

Dear Principals:

I am writing to clarify an email you received from Network Chiefs earlier this week about the graphic novel, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. First, let me be clear – we are not banning this book from our schools.

Persepolis is included as a selection in the Literacy Content Framework for seventh grade. It was brought to our attention that it contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum. If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms.

We have determined Persepolis may be appropriate for junior and senior students and those in Advance Placement classes. Due to the powerful images of torture in the book, I have asked our Office of Teaching & Learning to develop professional development guidelines, so that teachers can be trained to present this strong, but important content. We are also considering whether the book should be included, after appropriate teacher training, in the curriculum of eighth through tenth grades. Once this curricular determination has been made, we will notify you.

Also, please be reminded that central school library collections are governed by the New Collection Development Policy For School Libraries. We are not requesting that you removePersepolis from your central school library. Therefore do not remove this book or any other book from the central school library, unless you have complied with the policy.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and your staff. Sincerely,

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools


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