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Vista Freshmen Fight Ban on “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Impassioned Students Teach a Lesson on Censorship

Teacher Janice Johnson says that her second block class, pictured here, has set the bar high for her future students, and will always be an important part of her history.

Photo by: Alyssa Tsuboi

Teacher Janice Johnson says that her second block class, pictured here, has set the bar high for her future students, and will always be an important part of her history.

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For those who say that the current generation is apathetic, they must not have met Janice Johnson’s second block Honors English 9 class.

The freshmen recently initiated a letter writing campaign when they learned that “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book the class had already read, had been banned in Plaquemines Parish, a Louisiana school district.

“I wanted other students to have the same experience we had with the book,” student Alana Ramsay said. “That book is so important, and every student should read it so we don’t repeat our past.”

According to the teacher, students like Ramsay were the driving-force of the campaign. They decided to write the letters when Johnson says she mentioned the ban as part of a discussion on censorship for the current book they’re reading, “Fahrenheit 451.”

Again, Johnson says all she did was ‘shepherd’ them along. She credits Harper Lee and the students’ upbringings for their actions, not her leadership.

Senior Hannah Braidman has had Johnson for three years, including for Honors English 10 and Newspaper Production. She says Johnson gave her a voice by making her feel that her opinions meant something.

“She just guides us,” Braidman said of Johnson’s approach. “And this whole thing with the letter writing campaign, it’s exactly what she stands for–she just wants us to be impassioned about things.”

As for the ban on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it was eventually lifted, WWLTV reports, before the students’ letters arrived. However, the superintendent later called Dr. Dixon to acknowledge the ‘well-written’ letters. Either way, the students weren’t discouraged–29 of the 32 say they’d do something like this again.

“I would stand up for something again because even though they didn’t get the letters in time,” Katie Clauer said, “one time we actually could change someone’s opinion.”

Johnson, herself, doesn’t regret the campaign, either. She believes that the letters will give Plaquemines Parish’s superintendent a student’s perspective on why it’s so important that the ban was lifted.

However, her biggest hope remains that adults will gain a new respect for students, like her own.

“… We’ve got these amazing teenagers. If you’re just patient and wait, they’re going to do really incredible things for this world,” Johnson said. “There’s hope for our world for people to be passionate about the right things, to care about their … fellow human beings regardless of the skin color. There’s a lot of hope.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “Vista Freshmen Fight Ban on “To Kill a Mockingbird””

  1. Shaula Hartnett on November 1st, 2013 2:45 pm

    Great article! Extraordinary to see such wisdom and insight! Great Job everyone! You are our future and it makes me happy to know you are there!!!

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Vista Freshmen Fight Ban on “To Kill a Mockingbird”