CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools officials denied rumors Friday that they had banned the graphic novel Perseopolis from its schools, explaining they only determined it was inappropriate for use in 7th grade curriculum, but appropriate for juniors and seniors in high school, and students in Advanced Placement courses.
Some teachers had reported receiving an email from district staff ordering them to remove the book from their schools and libraries, and make sure copies of the book were not checked out by students.
However, in an email Friday afternoon, CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett denied banning the book.
“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,” she wrote.
CPS determined the book – an autobiographical graphic novel about author Marjane Satrapis childhood in Iran – was appropriate for juniors and seniors, and students in AP classes, but not for younger students without coming up with guidelines for presenting the material.
“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,” Byrd-Bennett wrote. “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.”
Byrd-Bennett also said CPS was not asking to have the book removed from any school libraries.
The Chicago Teachers Union had expressed concern about the issue earlier Friday.
“The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran. We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this– at a time when they are closing schools–because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues,” CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle said. There’s a lot of merit in Marjane Satrapj’s graphic novel. Not only is it thoughtful, it can be instructive for young people, especially girls. Persepolis can help our students begin to think about the world around them. We hope CPS has not reverted back to the 1950s.”