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When putting together the book censorship news this week, it felt like each story was trying to one up the next, ranging from the ridiculous to the truly chilling. We’re seeing an increase in lawsuits and legal involvement, from residents suing officials for banning books, to parents suing teachers for reading LGBTQ books in class, to the ACLU planning legal action against a school’s new book challenge policy.
This is why Kelly Jensen and I keep emphasizing that simply reading banned books or buying them isn’t enough: this is a systemic issue, and it needs a systemic solution. We need to organize in order to fight back against this wave of censorship, and that includes paying attention to who is getting elected to school and library boards — if you have the opportunity, running for these positions is one of the most effective ways that you as an individual can fight censorship.
In May, we announced the School Board Project, which is a database in progress that documents every school board and school board election in the country, state by state. It’s a massive project, but we’ve been chipping away it, prioritizing the states that have school board elections coming up. Eventually, we hope to do the same thing for library boards.
As Kelly explained, this is meant to be a resource that you can build on for your own local activism:
The School Board Project allows anyone to download the spreadsheets and add any relevant information that helps them. For example: individuals or groups may find including the names and stances of those running for boards in the sheet to help guide voters and/or as a means of tracking the kind of topics that are producing the most discussion in those districts. It can be useful for those considering a run for school board to collect information about what they need to do to become eligible or how long they have to prepare for a run. The possibilities here are wide open.
Today, I’m happy to announce round two of the School Board Project. In addition to the states already included in round one — Florida, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia — we have also documented the upcoming school board elections, and how many seats are available, in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
Just open the document and save a copy, and then you can add any extra information or delete states that aren’t relevant to you.
We’d also like to get in contact with grassroots anti-censorship organizations that are helping people with these values run for school or library boards. If you know of any groups like this, especially on the state level or smaller, please let us know!
Call To Action
If you want to be involved in literary activism and the fight against censorship, one easy thing you can do is sign up for our Literary Activism newsletter. We’ll keep you updated about the latest relevant news as well as give you practical tips for how you can help in the first against censorship. It’s also the best way to make sure you see this Censorship News Roundup every week!
Book Censorship News: June 17, 2022
- The far right group Proud Boys crashed a Drag Queen Story Hour in a California library, yelling slurs and threatening violence — yes, while children were there. It’s being investigated as a hate crime.
- Parents in Pittsburgh are suing the school district and their child’s first grade teacher because the teacher showed a video about the picture book Jacob’s New Dress.
- Teachers in Florida are being told to search their classrooms for any books that might violate new laws coming into effect July 1st, including what’s being called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
- Residents in Llano County sued officials for banning books, and now the Texas Attorney General wants to intervene to defend the book banning officials. Llano County commissioners have allocated $150,000 to fight the lawsuit.
- The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library is donating 1,000 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five to students in a Florida school district that banned the book.
- The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association sent a letter to the Edina school district telling them to stop teaching the book Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, saying that it “demonized” police. The district responded that it is not part of the curriculum, though students did have the option to see a play based on the book. 90 students ended up going to see the performance, with 10 families declining.
- The Littlestown Area School District Board is weaponizing the ALA’s top 100 most banned and challenged book list, offering parents the option of not allowing their children access to any of the books on this list. The irony of using a Freedom To Read resource to facilitate easier censorship is truly stunning, though not necessarily surprising.
- Central Bucks School Board has approved the first reading of its controversial new book policy, which restricts books allowed in school libraries based on nudity or poorly-defined “sexual content”. The ACLU tweeted about the policy, “The rules amount to censorship. It’s not just wrong, it’s probably illegal. Once the books start coming off the shelves, we’ll see you in court.”
- Cypress-Fairbanks school district in Texas has been removing books from their libraries based either on their inclusion on Krause’s list or because another district had removed them — not exactly the standard for book challenges and reviews.
- A would-be book banner in Abilene TX accused a board member of having an agenda in not pulling books off the shelves — because the board member is out as gay.
- In Nampa, ID, the Banned Books Fan Club held a read-in on the lawn of the school district’s headquarters.
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez was quietly removed from Dare County Schools in November 2021, after a board member asked the superintendent to do so. There was no formal complaint and no review process. The book has remained off the shelves since, though it may return next school year.
- Vinton, IO residents in a recent meeting discussed how the influx of book challenges has driven out two credentialed library directors in one year, putting the library’s funding in danger.
- A poetry book was challenged in Hanover County, VA schools and was called “garbage” for being critical of police. The board has voted to keep the book, but to move it from picture books to the poetry section.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is returning to the curriculum in Ottumwa, Iowa.
- A Cody, WY school district is keeping The Color Purple and How To Be an Antiracist on their shelves.
- The Ashland, OR library is keeping the five puberty books recently challenged.
- How Moms For Liberty’s Book Ratings System Enters Schools: Book Censorship News, June 10, 2022
- The Misinformation Age: Book Censorship News, June 3, 2022
- Business As Usual: Book Censorship News, May 27, 2022
- You Need To Talk About The Sex Parts in Banned Books: Book Censorship News, May 20, 2022
- The School Board Project, Round One: Book Censorship News, May 13, 2022
- How to Update Your Book Challenge Forms (with Template): Book Censorship News, May 6, 2022
- How One District Is Pushing Back Against Book Banning: Book Censorship News, April 22, 2022
- What Do School Boards Do?: This Week’s Book Censorship News, April 15, 2022
- No Actions Offered to Librarians to Help With Book Bans From National Org: Book Censorship News, April 8, 2022