Hundreds of Lane Tech College Prep students staged a sit-in this morning inside the school in response to Chicago Public Schools’ controversial announcement last week that it would remove the graphic novel “Persepolis” from its seventh grade curriculum.
Progress Illinois went to the school as classes began this morning but was told by one of the school’s assistant principals that members of the media were not allowed to attend the sit-in within the school or speak with faculty or students on school property about the protest, or other events, citing CPS’ communications policy.
Lane Tech students organized today’s 8 a.m. sit-in in the school’s library on Facebook and other social media platforms, however faculty broke it up about 20 minutes later, according to student reports on Twitter.
Multiple students reported on Twitter that the library was locked and up to 400 students flooded the surrounding hallways.
One student Tweeted shortly after 8 a.m., “The lack of keys at the library was pre-orchestrated librarians, teachers, staff knew well in advance what we were doing.
CPS made waves Wednesday when a directive from the central office asked schools to confiscate copies of the book, which is about the Islamic revolution in Iran.
In a written statement to principals Friday, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the district is not banning the book, but it would be removed from seventh-grade curriculum.
“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,” Byrd-Bennett wrote. “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.”
She said the book is more appropriate for junior and senior students and those in Advance Placement classes due to “the powerful images of torture.”
Today’s sit-in comes on the heels of a Friday afternoon demonstration outside the school, where about 100 Lane Tech students and teachers gathered to protest CPS’ decision, which they say is censorship.
One participant held a sign during Friday’s protest reading “Banning books … Closing schools. What’s next?”
Also Friday, students at Social Justice High School held a read-in in support of the book after hearing news of the ban.
Persepolis will remain in schools’ central libraries, Byrd-Bennett wrote in Friday’s statement.
“CPS is now claiming Persepolis is banned only from the 7th grade classroom but will be available in school libraries. Unfortunately 160 elementary schools don’t have libraries — and they know that,” said Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin. “Enough with the Orwellian doublespeak. We support our educators who are fighting to ensure their students have access to ideas about democracy, freedom of speech and self-image. Let’s not go backward in fear.”
At about 9 a.m., a student Tweeted to Progress Illinois, “A lot of students who were not there for the cause ruined it for everyone. The sit-in was broken up.”
Top Image: Twitter @BaconRomance; Second Image: CTU