The Culpeper County, VA school system received national media attention three weeks ago when school officials said that The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank would no longer be taught in middle school classrooms. A parent had contacted the school board because the uncensored version of the diary, used in an eighth grade English class, contained Frank’s reflections on her sexuality, including a description of her vagina’s appearance.
According to The Washington Post, director of instruction James Allen originally said that the school pulled the diary from the curriculum immediately after the parent’s verbal complaint. In doing so, they ignored district policy, which calls for a committee to review written complaints. “The person came in, and the decision was made that day,” Allen said, “and that’s fine. We would like to have had it in writing. It just did not happen.”
School officials’ casual disregard for procedure drew widespread criticism. Soon Superintendent Bobbi Johnson clarified that the book had not actually been removed from classrooms, and that the English teachers will be meeting later in the spring to review the whole curriculum. The Diary might be taught at a different grade level, but it will not be cut from the reading list.
The school district’s original decision to censor Anne Frank’s diary was an enthusiastic act of censorship, especially considering that the parent who complained only wanted assurance that her own child would not have to read aloud from the book in class. When they review the curriculum, English teachers in Culpeper County should let this incident remind them not to censor books preemptively if they contain material to which parents might object. They should also keep the definitive edition of Frank’s diary available to younger students, many of whom have vaginas themselves.