A New Mexico school district has at least temporarily removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its lone high school following an objection to the fantasy novel’s “inappropriate” content.” The book has been part of the 10th-grade English curriculum in 2004.
The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Nancy Wilmott, whose daughter was reading the novel as part of an assignment, was offended by a four-paragraph passage on Page 86 that “graphically describes an adulterous sexual encounter between a married man and a single woman in which the F-word is used three times, along with a brief description of groping of one’s anatomy.”
“I trusted the school system. I trusted the school district to pick proper material, and this is not,” Wimott, who contacted school officials last week about the material, told KASA Channel 2. “I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”
On Thursday, the school district ordered Neverwhere “temporarily removed from usage” until it can be reviewed.
“I reviewed the language personally. I can see where it could be considered offensive,” Alamogordo Public Schools Superintendent George Straface told the Daily News. “The F-word is used. There is a description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it’s between a married man and a single woman. Although kids can probably see that on TV anytime they want, we are a public school using taxpayer dollars.”
English teacher Pam Thorp wasn’t as agreeable, telling the newspaper, “I cannot and will not condone the censorship this parent is promoting. The implication that we are careless or irresponsible simply is not true. Presenting challenging material of merit that may contain some foul language or mature situations, in a sensitive and academic manner, is part of our responsibility to our students in order to engage them in evaluating the human condition.”
Although KASA reports school officials say this is the first complaint about Neverwhere, Straface contends “three of four” parents have objected to the material. Noting that he’s begun to hear from First Amendment advocates, Straface emphasized that although the novel hasn’t been banned yet, “it may be.”
“If it becomes so, my rationale would be that after a review, it was our judgment that this was not appropriate for 10th graders,” he said. “It is our prerogative to do that in the literature that we teach. Some people may call that censorship — and I would say, ‘Yes, it is.'”
The review process is scheduled to begin next week. Gaiman, who’s been re-tweeting news reports about the novel’s removal, asked, “Is anyone fighting back?” The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which says it will be following developments closely, points to the comments section of one news report as potential evidence that “the school district can expect immediate opposition to the ban.”