FLORIDA — A former high school newspaper adviser andan English teacher who battled censorship throughout their careersin education have teamed together to write a book about theirexperiences and offer guidance to others facing free-speech limitations.
Gloria Pipkin and ReLeah Cossett Lent, co-authors of "Atthe Schoolhouse Gate: Lessons in Intellectual Freedom," havespent much of their lives advocating free speech and academicfreedom for students and teachers.
"We hope [the book] will give people the spiritual sustenancethey need to resist censorship," Pipkin said. "We wantpeople to know that they’re not alone and these battles are important."
Using their personal experiences, Pipkin and Lent write aboutthe struggles they faced as teachers. Both worked for Bay DistrictSchools in Panama City, where they fought controlling administratorsand often made personal sacrifices to help their students.
Lent was caught in a censorship dispute while advising thestudent newspaper Making Waves at Mosley High School in1997. She was removed from her position as adviser, but sued infederal court and settled with the district for $120,000. Sheretained her job as an English teacher and formed a speech anddebate club at the school. Her efforts were recognized in 1999,when she was honored with the PEN/Newman’s Own First AmendmentAward.
The two teachers first met when they worked in the Englishdepartment at Mowat Middle School. Pipkin, who headed the department,confronted administrators after threats were made to discontinuethe use of a book, "I Am the Cheese," in Lent’s class.The two remained close ever since.
Pipkin went on to work as executive director of the FloridaCoalition Against Censorship, where she advocated for students’rights and attempted to spark interest in a student free-expressionbill to counteract the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision.
Read portions of the book and find ordering information from the publisher, Heinemann, at www.heinemann.com.