The American Civil Liberties Union has intervened after a middle school library in Ohio removed the November, 2008 issue of Nintendo Power.
The issue, which features a gun-toting female character from Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, was taken out of circulation at the Roxboro Middle School Library at the direction of Principal Brian Sharosky, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
However, ACLU of Ohio executive director Christine Link argued that the magazine should not have been banned from the library:
Literature should not be removed from a school library simply because one person may find it inappropriate… [the school board should] immediately order that the magazine be reinstated.
Despite Link’s argument, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board has backed the principal’s decision to remove Nintendo Power #234. With legal action on the matter increasingly likely, legal director Jeff Gamso offered the ACLU’s position:
The principal doesn’t get to say, ‘Whatever I say goes.’ There’s got to be some mechanism by which decisions are made and a process of review. Or maybe tomorrow it’ll be ‘ "Hamlet" — that’s an iffy play.’
UPDATE: Liz Surette of GamesLaw has provided a legal analysis of the issues in this case:
This situation is almost exactly like a case called Board of Education v. Pico, in which parents petitioned the school board to remove specific books that were “improper fare for school students” or “just plain filthy”.
The Supreme Court held that once a publication is in a school library, it may not be removed just because it is thought objectionable. The school board may decide which books and periodicals to purchase, but once they are made available on the shelves the children have a right to access that information. If the removal was motivated by a desire to deny students access to ideas with which the school disagrees, then it is unconstitutional.
However, the Court also said that the First Amendment is not implicated if the materials are removed because they are "pervasively vulgar" or if the decision was "otherwise based solely upon the ‘educational suitability’ of the books". The key fight here will be whether the principal removed NP for partisan/political reasons. I could go into much more detail about the policy rationale behind Pico and tensions with later cases, but suffice it to say that based on precedent the ACLU would surely win if they could prove that the principal pulled the mag just because he found it offensive or disagreeable.