Jarrett Dapier (MS '15) has been selected by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) to receive the 2016 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for defending the principles of intellectual freedom.
In March 2013, students took to the streets to protest the order issued by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) central office administrators to remove Marjane Satrapi's award-winning graphic novel Persepolis from CPS classrooms and libraries. The students’ protests inspired a public outcry by educators, librarians, and the public. Eventually the administrators withdrew their order and returned Persepolis to the city's high school classrooms and libraries, claiming a "miscommunication" about the status of the book. When the Freedom to Read Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, and American Civil Liberties Union submitted Freedom of Information Act requests asking for the correspondence and other documents relevant to the decision to remove the book, their requests were met with claims that there were no documents to share.
Two years after the attempt to remove Persepolis from CPS classrooms, Dapier—then a GSLIS master's student—sought information from the school system via another Freedom of Information Act request in order to complete a paper on censorship for a GSLIS class. His request met with greater success, yielding email correspondence between CPS officials who were actively working to remove Persepolis after receiving a complaint from a school employee. The emails revealed that the "miscommunication" claim was false and that the directive to remove Persepolis was revised only after the resultant community outcry and a staff member's citation of the CPS collection development policy, which prohibited a book's removal from school libraries without proper review.
Armed with new information regarding the incident, Dapier informed the ALA, National Coalition Against Censorship, and Chicago Reader newspaper. His actions were key to exposing the improper actions of the school system, and the reporting based on his research brought national attention to continued attempts by schools to improperly remove books from classrooms and library shelves.
The IFRT recognizes Dapier for continuing to research this incident after it was no longer newsworthy and for exposing wrongdoing that could have resulted in a violation of the constitutional rights of students in CPS. Dapier will be given a citation and a $500 prize at the IFRT Awards Reception & Member Social at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, June 25, 2016.