Poetic License

April 25, 2006 1 min read

The text of a poem was the subject of a school-based legal battle in Reno, Nevada. A federal judge there granted 9th grader Jacob Behymer-Smith permission to recite W.H. Auden’s “The More Loving One” at the state’s upcoming poetry-reading competition, over the protestations of his own school. Officials at Coral Academy of Science, a Reno charter school serving grades 6-9, wanted to keep Behymer-Smith from reading the poem because it includes the words “hell” and “damn.” The judge, however, wasn’t moved by their concerns. He ruled that, in the context of the reading, “the language sought to be censured cannot even remotely cause a disruption of the educational mission.” Behymer-Smith, who had chosen the poem from a list provided by the National Endowment of the Arts, sounded bewildered by the ordeal. “It was really stressful,” he said. “I didn’t know what poem to practice. I’m only 14 years old, and I had to go and sit on that witness stand.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.