Magnolia parents are petitioning against a ban on manga and the termination of the anime club. (Photo from 'Spirited Away')

Ban of anime club, manga draws ire from Magnolia Middle parents

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Magnolia parents are petitioning against a ban on manga and the termination of the anime club. (Photo from 'Spirited Away')

Magnolia parents are petitioning against a ban on manga and the termination of the anime club. (Photo from ‘Spirited Away’)

Many in the Magnolia Middle School community are upset about a recent ban on manga and the termination of the anime club.

A petition with nearly 2,000 signatures is circulating, asking the school, which is part of the Caesar Rodney School District, to reinstate the club and allow manga books.

Manga are comics or graphic novels originating from Japan, and anime is a style of Japanese film and television animation that dates back to the early 1900s. 

Both boomed in the 1990s in the United States, have become part of the Comic.Con and Cosplay cultures and continue to be popular with today’s students, Generation Y and Generation Z. 

Among the most popular anime movies are animated films by Hayao Miyazaki such as “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” that were hailed by Disney and Pixar for their stories and beauty.

Although the petition is circulating, Mike Williams, district community relations specialist, said the district is still in the process of making a final decision, which should be made next week.

“The district is in the process of reviewing policies, looking over curriculum materials, and the after school activities and things like that, and we still have maybe a week or 10 days to get through all that,” he said. “We’re going to look at each of the publications or books that are in this library and see which ones meet and which ones don’t meet the standard for age-appropriate material.”

He said the club wasn’t technically terminated by the district, but the club sponsor, Gretchen Fox, a teacher at Magnolia, decided to end the club on her own.

“The manga books are not banned, either, but what has been brought to the attention of the school is that some of the materials might not be age appropriate,” he said. “So the principal decided to he’s going to use a criteria and say age appropriate is this, and age non appropriate is that.”

According to Williams, Fox then said she didn’t have anything that she can use for her club because everything fell into the non-approved area, which is why the club was suspended.

Williams added that through the evaluation the district is conducting, some manga books might not be appropriate for the middle school, but are appropriate for the high school, so he pushed back on the term “banned.”

“Middle School is sixth, seventh and eighth, so if an eighth grader is looking at it, it has to also be okay for a sixth grader to look at,” he said, “and those are the conditions that we’re working through.”

According to the petition, the school principal Matthew Keen had said that because of the age of students the school serves, he was only comfortable with non-curriculum material being in the building if it was rated E or Y.

A rating of E or Y means the material is meant for children, or can be suitable for all ages because it does not have “inappropriate” content, like crude humor or language, violence,  profanity, drug and alcohol use, nudity or sex, for example.

As with any form of media, a lot of manga and anime easily fits into the E or Y category. A lot doesn’t.

“The Anime Club at Magnolia Middle School has been an invaluable platform for students to come together and share their love for anime films,” the petition states.

It also says both platforms allow children to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions about various themes depicted in the films while developing critical thinking skills.

The petition points out that children deserve access to diverse forms of literature, and manga and anime are visually unique mediums of storytelling that promote literacy and cultural exploration.

Several commenters on the petition say that their child has shown more of an interest in reading since Fox assembled her manga collection. 

Part of the reason she was able to add the manga books, in addition to student demand, is a $1,000 donation by Hertrich’s family of automobile dealerships in Milford.

RELATED: School test scores dismal again despite new math, reading plans

Some commenters even cited the state’s poor reading scores, saying the books help kids want to read and that will help school literacy rates and test scores.

Just 40.76% of Delaware students are on grade-level in English language arts. 

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