Saturday, July 18, 2009

British Children's Authors Boycott School Readings

Why? Because of a new policy requiring them to undergo background checks to make sure they are not sex offenders. An excerpt:

Some of Britain's leading children's authors are refusing to do readings in schools because of a new policy requiring them to be registered in a national database and undergo criminal background checks to prove they aren't sex offenders.

It's not just the $104 fee for the police checks that has outraged the authors. It's the idea that they — and even parents who volunteer in schools — must be declared innocent before being allowed to read to children.

Some of the biggest names in children's book publishing have joined the boycott beginning this fall, including a number of past recipients of the prestigious children's laureate prize. Akin to poet laureate, the government-appointed position is awarded to a noted children's author, who is charged with promoting children's literature in schools.

"Of course we have to take care, but this is not necessary," said Michael Morpurgo, the 2003-2005 children's laureate whose more than 100 books have long been revered by British students and teachers.

"I've done this hundreds of times, and you are never alone with children. There are always 100 to 200 children and teachers around you. It's absurd to think children are in any kind of danger."

The new rule, which takes effect in October, requires anyone who comes into contact with schoolchildren or vulnerable adults to register with the newly established Independent Safeguarding Authority and undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check to prove they are not a known threat.

Click here for the whole article.


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