By Daniela Rincon, communications intern at ACLU of Nebraska 
 
Ideas are powerful. That’s why intellectual freedom is protected by the First Amendment—and it's also why sometimes government tries to suppress provocative ideas.
 
For nearly 100 years on the national level, and over 50 years in Nebraska, the ACLU has fought to make sure Americans have full access to ideas and the right to read what they want. Despite our many victories, there are still to this day misguided attempts to ban books. This fight came close to home when a book by beloved Nebraska author Rainbow Rowell was the recent subject of censorship attempts for her award-winning young adult novel Eleanor & Park.
 
The book is a love story set in Omaha that deals frankly with poverty, bullying, domestic abuse and racism. Eleanora redhead struggling with body-image issues and an abusive stepfathermeets Park, a biracial boy who feels like a misfit and has a passion for comic books. The two high school students unexpectedly fall in love while riding the school bus.  
 
Despite its portrayal of real problems that today’s teenagers face, the young-adult novel has been challenged by schools, mostly under the guise of “offensive language.” 
 
“There is a lot of it,” author Rainbow Rowell said in an interview with The Toast, “but it’s so bizarre to me that they’re objecting to the cursing because Eleanor and Park themselves almost never swear. I’m not anti-profanity, personally, but I use profanity in the book to show how vulgar and sometimes violent the characters’ worlds are.” 
 
Rowell’s honest and captivating portrayals have also sparkled parental complaints regarding sexual language. After a group of librarians included Eleanor & Park in their high school summer reading program, two parents partnering with the Parents Action League convinced the library board to remove the book due to its “dangerously obscene” content. Several anti-censorship advocates got involved in the fight. 
 
The issue was hotly debated and the board eventually concluded that the book was “powerful, realistic and honest, but not profane,” and kept it on library shelves. The ordeal was quite a surprise to the author, who based the story on her personal experiences. 
 
"When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible. That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn’t even fit for good people’s ears. That ugly thing cancels out everything beautiful," Rowell had said.   
 
Last year, Rowell went on to write Kindred Spirits, an ebook from which she donated all proceeds to the ACLU of Nebraska to support our work to defend rights guaranteed by our Constitutionincluding free expression and academic freedom under the First Amendment.
 
In recognition of her contribution of more than $10,000 donated from this project and for her body of work as a journalist and activist, the ACLU of Nebraska awarded our annual Defender of the Bill of Rights Award to Rainbow Rowell this summer. 
 
At the award ceremony, Rowell said, "Once you start paying attention to the ACLU, you realize they never stop. I started to see the ACLU as this group of people who have been there defending my rights when I wasn't paying attention to them." 
 
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said, “We are so pleased to be able to thank Rainbow for her generous support of our mission to protect freedom of speech, and as a fangirl of her work, it was a particular honor to grant her this award."
 
Rainbow’s experience is a telling example of how vigilant we all must be to protect the First Amendment rights provided by our Constitution. It cannot be up to some of us to decide what the rest of us can read. Authors are free to write books they want to write, and we all are free to read them if we wish.
 
Rainbow

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Friday, September 28, 2018 - 1:45pm

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by Scout Richters, J.D., Legal & Policy Counsel ACLU of Nebraska 

Each August, thousands of Nebraska students return to college campuses across the state. Apart from signifying Back to School, August is also National Breastfeeding Month 

 

As such, now is the perfect time to elevate the importance of support for breastfeeding moms who also happen to be students at Nebraska colleges and universities. Having previously worked to strengthen workplace protections for pregnant and breastfeeding employees as well as developing legislation to ensure that public middle schools and high schools have policies to support pregnant and parenting students, the ACLU of Nebraska has now turned to a review and report on the lactation policies for students at Nebraska’s colleges and universities. 

 

Given the recent threat to breastfeeding support by the Trump administration, now more than ever, Nebraskans must work together to ensure breastfeeding college students, and all mothers in the state, have every opportunity to thrive. Our investigation found that a number of schools do indeed have lactation policies that provide students with spaces and other accommodations to express breast milk while on campus. Many of these schools have their policies readily accessible via their websites and/or student handbooks. When Nebraska colleges have policies that support students who are breastfeeding, they help to ensure that students are able to simultaneously achieve their educational goals while exercising their rights to breastfeed their children if they so choose 

 

Let me be clear—breastfeeding is a personal choice for each individual woman to make for herself and her family. We recognize and respect that some women choose not to breastfeed or are unable to breastfeed for a wide variety of reasons. Women who do breastfeed, however, must be supported in school, college campuses, on the job, and in other places of public accommodation because breastfeeding is a civil right, gender equity concern, and reproductive justice issue. 

 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - 1:00am

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