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 Utah, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
More than 260 Books Removed from Utah School Libraries as a Result of New Law
The Salt Lake Tribune looked into the hundreds of books that have been targeted in Utah’s public schools as the result of a 2022 law banning titles containing “pornographic or indecent content” from K-12 libraries and classrooms. It found that 262 books were removed from 17 districts between when the law passed last year and when school started this year. One of the top banned titles, Elana K. Arnold’s What Girls Are Made Of, was taken out of six districts.
Lauren Liang, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Utah who studies censorship in literature for children and young adults, told the Tribune that the number represents the shift in how book challenges are being made. “It’s no longer about one individual objecting to just one book at their local school,” she said. “We’re seeing this new push to restrict access from these large groups that have long lists of books” that they challenge in multiple districts.
Pittsburgh-area Parents Challenge 12 School Library Books
Parents in the Pine-Richland School District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have filed challenges to remove 12 books from the district’s school libraries, calling several of the books “pornographic,” reports KDKA-TV. The books in question include All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Push by Sapphire.
The parents voiced their opinions at a recent school board meeting and threatened to vote out board members who disagree. The board said there's an existing policy that allows people to challenge books and they'll follow the policy and investigate the request and books in question. "That provision and this policy has been in place for a little over a decade now," a board member said. "These are the first 12 or 13 requests we've ever received."
Wisconsin Parents Speak Out on Decision to Remove Books from School Library
Parents, students, and community members in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, packed an October 23 school board meeting to speak out about the local school district's decision to remove 33 books from Menomonee Falls High School's library, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The district said the books, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, were removed because they violated policies regarding sexual content and profanity.
More than three dozen people spoke at the meeting, representing both sides of the issue. One parent said she was concerned about the fiscal effect of banning books.
"When a list of banned books has a clearly discriminatory focus, it's going to invite challenges from parents to the nondiscrimination clauses of local, state, and federal law," she said. "Those challenges will require lawyers to be retained by the school district. They will require hours of defense preparing for indefensible acts, hours of staff time to respond to information gathering requests and they invite lawsuits from organizations such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), PEN (PEN America), and many others, including book publishers, individual parents who feel their children are being targeted because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation."
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Michigan School District Over “Explicit” Books
A judge dismissed a lawsuit against Rockford (Mich.) Public Schools that sought to ban 14 books from the school district’s library system for being “pornographic” and “sexually explicit,” reports MLive. The lawsuit concerned 14 books, including Looking for Alaska by John Green, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, that are available in the district’s library system. None of the books are required reading for students.
The plaintiffs, a group called Parents and Taxpayers Against Pornography in Rockford Public Schools, also alleged Rockford administrators committed a felony by disseminating the books to minors, according to court records.
Rockford Superintendent Steve Matthews said the district has not received any complaints about the books in question—or any books or materials—since the district enacted book-review policies for parents concerned about specific books or instructional material. He does not have any plans to remove the 14 books from the district’s library system following the lawsuit. Matthews also said he believes the books are all age appropriate and relevant and should stay on the shelves.
The judge in the case agreed.
“Plaintiffs cannot establish that a reasonable person would not find value in the identified works as a whole,” the judge wrote in his ruling. “In fact, every book identified by Plaintiffs has either received accolades or been on best-seller lists.”
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.