Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear Ellen,

         Censorship in public schools is getting out of control and we need your help. My name is Ashley Lawless. My friends, Alivia Carter, Lauren Himmelberg, Weston Moore, Kaity, and I are writing you this letter because of recent events that are happening in our area. We live in Republic, Missouri and are seniors at Republic High School.
         There is a problem that has caught the attention of some well known authors, including Judy Blume and Laurie Halse Anderson, and we want to bring it to the attention of you and the public. It was also a trending topic on twitter (#speakloudly) for over 18 hours. Students, teachers, parents, and authors around the United States have heard about this and have had an opinion (usually on our side). We just thought we should inform you on the situation (not to be confused with Mike "The Situation" from Jersey Shore) that is happening in our community.
         The problem we are talking about is censorship. We are trying to fight censorship in our high school. A professor, Dr. Wesley Scroggins, at a local University wrote an opinion article ( and sent it to the local paper about three books that are being taught at our school. According to him, these books, “Speak;” “20 Boy Summer;” and the popular post-modern war novel, “Slaughter-House Five,” have content that is not appropriate for high school students. His main argument is that they promote “un Christian-like values” such as sex, drinking, and foul language. Our problem is not that Dr. Scroggins stated his opinion, but the fact that our school district is considering banning these books.
         Having read two of the three books in question, we know that he has taken things out of context. We, along with many of the students at our school, are very upset that the district is trying to tell us what is “appropriate” for us to read based on one man’s opinion.
         You may be wondering why we are writing this letter. We just want to inform you and everybody else on serious problems that are happening in small communities all over. We want to spread the word. We don’t want this to happen to other schools and deprive other students’ educations.
         We are specifically writing to you because we know that you care about you fans and just people in general. We know that you will listen to us and our voices will be heard, even though we are just seniors in high school. We just hope that you will take a look at this and maybe help us spread the word that serious problems affecting students’ educations are happening everyday.
         Thank you so much for reading this! We love you!

            Your fans,

            Ashley Lawless   
            Alivia Carter
            Lauren Himmelberg
            Weston Moore
The following are links are to what he wrote and the author’s of two of the books responses:

His article:

Sarah Ockler’s (author of “20 Boys Summer”) response:

Laurie Halse Anderson’s (author of “Speak”) response:


  1. Ashley---I'm so proud of you...and the rest of your writing team...for writing and posting this. And seriously. Who better than to solve the world's problems than Ellen? I've always wanted to start class with dancing like she starts her show. I'd love to have her playlist blaring on the loud speaker between classes--then we could watch everyone dance in the hallway. School would just be so fun!!

    AND, I'm so happy you have a BLOG!!! Use it, girl! I hope to see some of your writings from class posted here! I'm going to follow (if it's okay with you.)

    We'll talk tomorrow. Had a good meeting today with the English Dept. after school. I bet Mrs. Howard talks to you 1ST HOUR....darn that teacher! ;)

    Be safe. Can't wait to keep reading. And happy blogging!

    Ms. Daugherty

  2. Way to go, guys. So happy and excited to see you guys take your message to the streets, as it were. You make me proud to be a teacher. I would say more, but the #SpeakLoudly campaign has me so busy right now, and we are only just beginning to put things together. There are steps and actions that the rational citizen can take to assure that academic and intellectual freedoms are honored and protected.

    The very best to you as you continue in your studies.

    Paul W. Hankins
    Silver Creek High School

  3. I read Slaughterhouse-Five at age 15 and it was one of the most pivotal, defining moments of my subsequent intellectual life!

    I don't know the other two books, so I can only speak to the work by Vonnegut, but if this 'professor' thinks that stopping 18 year olds from reading a classic of the last century will be somehow good for them, I can see why society has headed down the tubes.

  4. I think that what you are doing is truly incredible! We live in a society that, unfortunately, is growing more and more apathetic to real issues. Most people just sit and complain about things anymore, rather than speaking up and taking action. Elie Wiesel once said, "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." It is exciting and hopeful to see young people stand up and take action on such an important issue as censorship.

    I'm linking your letter to my blog so that others will help support your cause.
    KUDOS to you all and Best of Luck!

  5. Pure awesomeness! I'm with the Bloggers Speak Out project started by Natalie from Mindful Musings and have been posting about this on my blog. I'm also giving away a copy of Speak. I wish you the best of luck.


  6. Great job! I'm a parent of a kindergartner in the Republic School district, and am so glad to hear you speaking out! You have thousands of supporters, many of them right here in your own community. If one man can get books pulled off our shelves, several thousand people should be able to get them put back on. Keep us updated on the situation in our schools, and we'll keep fighting!