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U.S. Book Challenges Update: May 31 Edition

banned books map 3.24.23

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 Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, and Idaho.

Minnesota bans book bans

Minnesota has banned book bans, making it illegal for libraries to remove titles based on ideology, reports The Advocate.

On May 17, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law HF3782, which prevents libraries from removing books “based solely on the viewpoint, content, message, idea, or opinion conveyed.” Instead, content curation will be managed by “a licensed library media specialist, an individual with a master’s degree in library sciences or library and information sciences, or a professional librarian or person with extensive library collection management experience."

"Censorship has no place in our libraries. As a former teacher, I’m clear: We need to remember our history, not erase it," Walz said on X. "Today, I signed a bill into law putting an end to book bans based on ideology in Minnesota."

Minnesota’s Education Commissioner Willie Jett praised the law’s passage in a statement, saying that his "administration is eager to engage in discussions regarding the recognition of invaluable contributions made by our professional librarians and the preservation of Minnesota’s public libraries as vital sources of information freely accessible to all."

Most of the books conservatives are trying to ban in Tennessee are LGBTQ+

The LGBTQ+ advocacy group The Tennessee Equality Project released a report that examines the subjects and authorship behind challenged books in Tennessee—it found that seven out of nine of the most challenged book have queer themes or were written by an LGBTQ+ author, reports LGBTQ Nation.

“Book challenges most likely to succeed include LGBTQ+ content, themes on race and social issues are second most common, then third is content with both race and LGBTQ+ themes,” the report stated.

The report also found that “Tennessee’s public libraries, public schools, and the professionals who manage them are being attacked by well-funded censorship campaigns and bad actors.” These bad actors include elected leaders, private citizens, and organizations.

Public-school textbooks the latest target as US book bans intensify

A public school district in a Houston, Texas, suburb has voted to redact textbook chapters on vaccines and climate change, and parents and educators are worried, reports The Guardian.

The board of trustees for the Cypress Fairbanks independent school district voted 6-1 earlier this month to redact certain chapters in science textbooks, including those about vaccines, human growth, diversity, and climate change. The motion to remove the chapters was made by the board’s vice-president, Natalie Blasingame, and almost unanimously supported.

Blasingame, who has served on the board since 2021, did not give a specific explanation for the decision, but said the subjects go beyond what the state requires to teach and creates “a perception that humans are bad”.

The board’s decision drew the ire of local parents and education groups.

Bryan Henry, a local parent and founder of the non-partisan group Cypress Families for Public Schools, is concerned about the precedent this decision sets.

“Will trustees at the local school board level be able to just delete chapters about civil rights because they just mentioned the history of same-sex marriage?” Henry said. “It’s really kind of alarming what this could mean for ideological influence and control over what is taught in schools.”

Idaho high school grad protests book ban during graduation ceremony

A high school graduate in Idaho offered a banned book to the school district’s superintendent at her school’s May 23 graduation ceremony, reports The New York Post. The superintendent had banned the book months earlier.

Annabelle Jenkins was one of 44 graduates to have her name called during the Idaho Fine Arts Academy graduation ceremony. After she shook hands with administrators on the stage, she paused in front of West Ada School District Superintendent Derek Bub and pulled out the graphic novel version of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” from the sleeve of her graduation gown. Bub declined the book, so Jenkins dropped it at his feet as she moved across the stage.

Jenkins says she and some classmates have been outspoken about the book’s ban because it was done without input from the students or staff and with little transparency. She says her graduation protest was in response to the school district’s actions toward the student body throughout the school year regarding books.

Following the ceremony, Jenkins shared a video of her protest to TikTok, which has been seen over 24.3 million times.

“I have never desired to go viral, but if I was ever going to, I’m glad that it is for something so deeply important to me,” she told the Idaho Statesman. “More than anything, I just want people to talk about it. I want to generate conversation.”

Take action

Alarmed by the escalating attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to protect the freedom to read.

  1. 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 the Unite 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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