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 Georgia, North Carolina, New York, and Florida.
Georgia school district is banning books, citing sexual content, after firing a teacher
Cobb County School District, the second-largest school district in Georgia, has removed two books from 20 school libraries, saying the books had “highly inappropriate, sexually explicit content,” reports the Associated Press. The books in question are “Flamer” by Mike Curato and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews.
Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, told the AP that media specialists were being questioned by the district regarding when the books were purchased and why. These interviews could be a prelude to the librarians being disciplined or fired.
“They’re scared to death, and one parent complaint could cost them a career,” Hubbard said.
The announcement came days after the Republican-majority school board voted to fire a teacher for reading a book about gender identity to fifth-grade students.
Students temporarily denied library books because of Parents’ Bill of Rights
Students returned to classrooms in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in North Carolina on August 28, but they can’t check out library books for the first two weeks of school due to a new process for parents to challenge library books, as required by the new Parents’ Bill of Rights state law (Senate Bill 49), reports Axios Charlotte. The new law requires superintendents to create an avenue for parents to object to textbooks and library materials and guarantees parents the right to review their child’s library records.
A majority of Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board members oppose the Parents’ Bill of Rights but told Axios Charlotte that they said they need to uphold the law.
“To the CMS students who will experience harm or risk danger under these regressive laws, I want you to know that there are many here in this community who support your authentic lives,” board member Melissa Easley said. She and other board members noted CMS already extends many of the rights under the new law to parents, such as the book objection process. “It’s pure culture warfare,” board member Jennifer De La Jara said of Senate Bill 49.
New York school board overwhelmingly votes against banning two books
Galway (N.Y.) Central School District Board of Education overwhelmingly voted to keep two books in the high school curriculum after two complaints were filed requesting their removal, reports the Times Union. The books were Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus, a real-life account of an attack on a nonbinary student on a school bus, and the poetry anthology, Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience.
In each case, a single complainant raised objections, saying the respective books weren’t appropriate for the age level to which they were assigned. Students whose families objected to the books were allowed to read an alternative book, but in each case, the complainant wanted the books removed for everyone.
About 100 people attended the August 21 board meeting in support of the books. Several speakers said they had no problem with a parent deciding their children weren’t ready for a particular book, but that it was not reasonable to let that parent decide for all children.
“What they want is control. Now they want to control what choices other parents make for their children,” one parent said. “Sustaining this complaint removes the right of all other parents to choose.”
The people who lodged the complaints about the books did not speak and it was unclear whether they attended the meeting.
Children’s book authors add Florida county to lawsuit over banned title
The authors of the children’s book And Tango Makes Three have added Escambia County, Florida, to a lawsuit challenging the school district’s responses to the state’s Parental Rights in Education Law, reports Click Orlando. The lawsuit is also filed against Lake County School District and the Florida State Board of Education.
And Tango Makes Three tells the true story of two male penguins who raise a penguin chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. Authors Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, along with a third-grade student, filed a revised federal lawsuit on August 25 that seeks an injunction to require the book to be restored to Escambia school library shelves.
The lawsuit, filed in June against Lake County school officials and the State Board of Education, contends that the book was targeted for “illegitimate, narrowly partisan, political reasons.” It also raises issues about a controversial state law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
“The plaintiffs are amending their complaint to fight not only Lake County’s continuing unconstitutional conduct, but to fight yet another horrible example of book banning in Florida,” said a partner on the team that filed the lawsuit.
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.