Pieces of Pico: Saving Intellectual Freedom in the Public School Library

56 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2010

See all articles by Richard J. Peltz-Steele

Richard J. Peltz-Steele

University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth

Date Written: 2005


Since their advent, public school libraries in America have rested upon a delicate balance between subservience to curricular direction and leadership in intellectual development. This historical duality today parallels a curricular-extracurricular distinction recognized in constitutional law – based upon an ambiguous Supreme Court plurality ruling in Board of Education v. Pico (1982) – that has safeguarded the intellectual freedom of youth. However, in a rush to address authoritatively problems such as Internet pornography, school librarians are forgetting their historical dual allegiance. If the line between the curricular and extracurricular is blurred, the former likely will subsume the latter. Not only the intellectual freedom of youth is at risk, but the academic freedom of school librarians themselves, and ultimately, expressive liberty in the society at large, which depends on the education of youth in democratic norms. Bringing together rare historical materials on the establishment of school libraries in America, and the experience of case law concerning expressive freedom in education, this Article counsels against an outcome contrary to the civil rights interests of all concerned.

Keywords: intellectual freedom, students, education, school library, First Amendment, freedom to receive

JEL Classification: I21, I28, K23, K39

Suggested Citation

Peltz-Steele, Richard J., Pieces of Pico: Saving Intellectual Freedom in the Public School Library (2005). Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, Vol. 2005, p. 103, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1669446

Richard J. Peltz-Steele (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth ( email )

333 Faunce Corner Road
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-1252
United States
15089851102 (Phone)

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