Teacher who defended Little Brother against principal will keep her job!

A Florida principal broke his own rules when he cancelled a summer reading program to avoid kids being exposed to "anti-authoritarian themes" in Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. When Mary Kate Griffith objected, she faced misconduct charges and her job was on the line.

By Cory Doctorow at 2:55 am Wed, Aug 20, 2014

We have all kept quiet about this during the summer, waiting on tenterhooks to learn if Ms Griffith would lose her job for sticking up for the right to read and the insistence on due process when books are challenged. Finally, to all our relief, she has been fully exonerated, and the Escambia County School District superintendent (who read Little Brother and believes it is appropriate for school reading at all grades) hand-delivered the verdict, so that he could apologize in person for her ordeal.

According to Ms Griffith, the superintendent has promised to revamp the process for challenging books because it has "holes" in it -- but as Griffith points out, the process for challenging books was not followed at all, so the cancellation of the One School/One Book program had nothing to do with that process. And what's more, Griffith says that books are sometimes challenged in the school and the process is never invoked.

Today, I'm mailing a signed, limited edition hardcover of Little Brother to the school for their annual charity auction. They have 200 copies, donated by my publisher Tor Teen, and a set of posters with the full text of the book for the library and the English department, donated by Litographs. I've also heard from dozens of Washington students over the summer, and I've sent each one a personalized, PGP-signed ebook version of their own.

The 200 free print copies of Little Brother have been at Booker T Washington High School since last week, and are being distributed directly to students when they pick up their fall schedules.

I'll be doing a videoconference session with the students at Washington this fall, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to record the session and post it online. In the meantime, I'd like to sincerely thank all the people who stood in solidarity with Ms Griffith and the Washington faculty, especially:

* The Professional Educators Network of Florida, who represented Ms Griffith in her disciplinary proceeding, and helped save her job

* The National Coalition Against Censorship, who advised Ms Griffith and organized a broad-based coalition of anti-censorship groups to bring attention to the issue

* The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who offered invaluable advice to me on supporting Ms Griffith and the Washington High students

* Tor Teen, who donated 200 copies of Little Brother to the students of Booker T Washington High

* Litographs, who donated posters containing the full text of the book to the school

* Josh Costello, who has pledged scripts for his Little Brother stage adaptation for the school's drama department

When I learned that Little Brother had been struck off the school reading list by a principal who hadn't even read it, I was outraged, but I didn't think there was much I could do. After all, without a strong teacher's union, and in a time where jobs are scarce, I could hardly ask the faculty to take on their boss on my behalf.

But what Ms Griffith taught me was that teachers, even those who face dismissal and the breadline, are fearless when it comes to their kids. Ms Griffith knew that she was in the right all along, and was adamant that she would not be intimidated out of speaking out for what was right. The students of Booker T Washington High are fortunate indeed to have such a brave and principled woman running their English department. I can't wait to talk to them!

Published 2:55 am Wed, Aug 20, 2014

About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

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