PERSEPOLIS WATCH: Challenges to Chicago's ayatollahs' censorship grow... as students and others organize a sit-in -- and possible 'read-in' -- of Persepolis in the famed school's library at Addison and Western at 8:00 a.m. on March 18, 2013

Despite the fact that the administration of Chicago Public Schools issued a confused attempt to partially retract its order banning the novel "Persepolis" following an international protest against the censorship, students from across the city have announced that they will hold a sit-in in the classic Lane Tech College Prep High School library beginning at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of Monday, March 18, 2013. Students have asked students and others from across Chicago to join them, bringing copies of the world-famous graphic novel with them for the event.

One of Chicago's most prestigious and historic public schools, Lane Tech High School is located at the corner of Western Ave. and Addison St. on Chicago's northwest side, two miles west of Wrigley Field. The official address of the school is 2501 W. Addison St.

Barbara Byrd Bennett (above left) was brought to Chicago from Detroit one year ago after being vetted by the Broad Foundation. She had been leading the closing of schools and the gutting of what remained of Detroit's public schools there. At first, Rahm Emanuel had Byrd-Bennett as the Chicago Public Schools "Chief Education Officer," but following the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, the mayor forced out his first out-of-town schools chief, Rochester's Jean-Claude Brizard, and appointed Byrd Bennett to the post of "Chief Executive Officer" of the nation's third largest school system. Above, Byrd Bennett and Emanuel spoke at Chicago's Lowell Elementary School on October 29, 2012, announcing that selected school principals would be receiving "merit pay" bonuses of up to $20,000 under a privatized corporate program. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The announcement of the sit-in/read in came after numerous teachers and students protested the banning of the novel by order of Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett by March 13, 2013 and the clumsy attempt to spin the issue following national and international criticism of the censorship.

By March 14, 2013, principals across Chicago were ordering librarians and classroom teachers to collect all copies of the book and remove them from places where students might find them in the schools. After protests from students, teachers, the American Library Association, and the Chicago Teachers Union, Byrd Bennett took the school system's leadership into a damage control spin mode at the system's central office. Instead of rescinding the censorship, however, Byrd Bennett, without holding a press conference, issued an emailed press statement claiming that there had been a misunderstanding and that the order she had issued had not really meant to remove the book from all 600 public school libraries (where the schools have school libraries) and classrooms. Instead, Byrd Bennett claimed that she had only meant to have the novel removed from study by seventh grade students, because, the press statement said, the novel, which is a graphic novel, contained an "inappropriate" graphic showing torture. The continuation of the censorship, reduced now to seventh graders, prompted the continuation or protests. CPS issued no additional explanations to the public following the Friday, March 15 statement continuing the censorship for seventh graders.

The Lane Tech students issued the following announcement via social media, including Facebook, on Sunday, March 17, 2013:

As many of you may have heard, CPS (Chicago Public Schools) has put a ban on anything related to the graphic novel Persepolis. Reading the book in class and even watching the movie is PROHIBITED. CPS has done this without giving legitimate reasoning. This can be considered censorship and borderline unconstitutional. Many people have read this book and see nothing "ban worthy" about it. As students, we should not put up with this unreasonable violations of our rights. WE have a voice. WE can do something about this, which is why we will have a sit in, in the Lane Tech Library this upcoming Monday. The time is still tentative. The school librarian has already been notified of this and is alright with the idea. If it's possible, get a copy of the book so that you can read it during the sit in. If you do not have the book, sitting with us acknowledges the cause for the most part.

As being students, we need to acknowledge this from the general perspective. Even if you have not read the book, this is an immoral act upon the students attending Chicago Public Schools. In participating in this, we are declaring that this is not morally right. If you are a student from another Chicago Public School, or care about our rights, please join us in our sit-in in scheduling it at your school. The more people we get involved, the stronger the movement. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS


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