A teacher in Indiana has been suspended without pay for 18 months for using The Freedom Writers Diary, a widely lauded collection of biographical stories written by inner-city teenagers, as part of her curriculum. For some reason, the two most detailed reports on this story are from U.K. newspapers, The Guardian and The Telegraph. According to The Guardian:
Connie Heermann, a teacher for 27 years, sought permission to introduce the book to her students last autumn after attending a training workshop held by the Freedom Writers Foundation. […] Her head agreed and Heermann got written permission from nearly 150 parents, but the Perry Meridian high school board urged her to wait for its decision. Teachers’ union officials say that a single board member objected to swearing in the book. The school board member allegedly persuaded the other six officials to ban Heermann from teaching the book.
Having got wind of the story, Hollywood screenwriter Richard Lagravenese “ who wrote and directed an adaptation of the book starring Hilary Swank “ has written a piece for The Huffington Post defending Heermann. It’s a good defense, and in it, he relates this particularly damning anecdote, which sheds light on the school board’s real concerns:
When CNN reporter Gary Tuchman remarked to School Board President Barbara Thompson how he couldn’t believe that the students would be worse off for reading the book “ and questioned, is it possible the book could actually make them better for reading it, Thompson responded: “What worries me is that Connie Heermann […] sent a poor message to our children. If you’re told no, do it […] it if feels good, do it anyway.” She gave no response to the question of the book’s value to a student’s education.