Libraries and schools across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of attempts to ban or remove books from their shelves. I Love Libraries will continue to raise awareness by highlighting attempts to censor library materials, as well as efforts by librarians, parents, students, and concerned citizens to push back against them. This report includes news from Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Delaware.
Florida Democrats pen letter calling for DeSantis to end book bans
A group of Florida Democrats have urged state Gov. Ron DeSantis to end his administration’s current initiative of banning books in the state, reports The Hill.
In a letter sent to DeSantis December 7, the group shared their concerns with the recent uptick of book bans in Florida schools and libraries, noting that these actions “will foment a noxious climate of repression and marginalization that degrades learning, understanding and undermines all Floridians’ basic freedoms.”
The lawmakers also wrote that the book censorship not only interferes with children’s education, but also infringes on their First Amendment rights, noting a 1982 Supreme Court case in which the court ruled school boards cannot remove books from school libraries due to their disagreement with the content. They also wrote that the Florida book bans further marginalize LGBTQ+, Black, and BOPIC authors, readers, and their stories.
“It is our firm belief that the banning of books because they contain LGBTQI+ content, or involve issues of race or ethnicity, is an explicit attempt to silence the stories of communities that already face an onslaught of legislative attacks, especially in Florida. As Governor, it is your responsibility to ensure Florida’s classrooms remain bastions of growth and inclusivity, rather than sanctuaries of division and hatred,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Pennsylvania school board president sworn in on banned books
A newly inaugurated school board president in a Philadelphia suburb took an oath of office on December 4 by placing her hand on a stack of banned books, reports Truthout.
Karen Smith, an incumbent member of the Central Bucks School District board, was formerly a Republican member of the board but switched parties in 2021 due to anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the Republican-led board. During the meeting, she explained why she chose a stack of banned books (rather than a Bible) to swear herself in.
“I’m not particularly religious,” she said. “The Bible doesn’t hold significant meaning for me, and given everything that has occurred in the last couple of years, the banned books, they do mean something to me at this point.” She added that she wanted to demonstrate “the commitment I’ve had to fighting for the books, and for our students’ freedom to read.”
The books Smith was sworn in on include Night by Elise Weisel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, and Flamer by Mike Curato. The Philadelphia Inquirer details the reasons why Smith chose each book.
New parent group pushes back on Texas book bans
A new nonprofit is working to push back against book bans in school districts across Texas, reports KERA News.
The Texas Freedom to Read Project was launched this week by parents who are concerned that state regulations infringe on free speech and access to ideas and dehumanize students and librarians. Laney Hawes, the mother of four students in Keller Independent School District which pulled for review the Bible and an illustrated version of the Anne Frank's diary under its update book review policy, is one of the group’s founding members.
“Your child might not be ready for a book another child wants. And if there are books you don’t believe your children should have access to or are ready to read, you get to make that decision for your children,” said Hawes. “But you don’t get to make that decision for my children and all Texas children.”
New Hampshire Department of Education pressure on schools over books raises alarm
The New Hampshire Department of Education is heightening its scrutiny of books in libraries and classrooms, as schools face pressure to remove titles that have LGBTQ+ characters or deal with mature or difficult sexual themes, reports New Hampshire Public Radio.
Sarah Gibson writes: “Since last year, according to public records and interviews with school officials involved, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and his deputies have repeatedly pressed the Dover School District to explain its decision making around library content, after raising concerns about two specific titles — one of which, according to the district, wasn’t on its shelves. Last month, records show, the commissioner also asked for an inquiry into a complaint he received about a poster on a middle school teacher’s door that encouraged people to ‘Read Banned Books.’”
She continues: “Within the past few months, state education officials have also advised schools that they need to give parents or guardians advance notice of any “course material related to human sexuality,” including English and social studies curriculum. That move raised alarms among some civil liberties advocates, who say the parental notification law was originally designed to apply to health or sex education lessons.”
“Any suggestion that books be banned frays the bonds of trust and cooperation among parents, schools, and students,” lawyers from the ACLU of New Hampshire and GLAD wrote to the Department of Education. “They track politicized and partisan narratives in the larger culture, and regularly target books that discuss or depict the experiences and history of members of LGBTQ+ communities and/or communities of color.”
Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.
- Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
2. Show up for library workers at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent’s right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all
3. Help provide a safety net for library professionals as they defend intellectual freedom in their communities by giving to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
4. Educate friends, neighbors, and family members about censorship and how it harms communities. Share information from Banned Books Week.
5. Join theUnite Against Book Bans movement and visit our Fight Censorship page to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.
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