Associated Press, Apr. 24, 2003
Little Rock, Ark. – A federal judge ordered Harry Potter books back onto an Arkansas school district’s library shelves Tuesday, rejecting a school board’s claim that tales of wizards and spells could harm school children.
Ruling in favor of a fourth-grader’s parents, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren ordered the Cedarville School District to put the four books in J.K. Rowling’s popular series back in general circulation.
The district’s board drew wrath from national free-speech groups for its June decision to require students to obtain parental permission to check out the books. The 3-2 decision, which overruled a unanimous decision by the district’s library committee, came after a parent complained about the books.
Some Christian groups have assailed the Harry Potter books for their themes of witchcraft. The American Library Association says the books were the most frequently challenged of 2002, but rarely did those challenges lead to restrictions or bans.
Plaintiffs Billy and Mary Nell Counts said they feared their daughter Dakota would be stigmatized if she were identified as someone who read books the district considered “evil.”
First Amendment associations and children’s author Judy Blume filed a brief in support of the couple last month. They claimed the Cedarville district was committing censorship and trampling on students’ right to receive information.
The school district did not immediately return calls seeking comment. In depositions, the three board members who voted for the restrictions said they felt the Harry Potter books prompted children to disobey authority and pushed occult messages.