Censorship Bills On the Table in Nearly Half of U.S. States: This Week’s Book Censorship News, January 7, 2022

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In 2022, don’t anticipate that book challenges and wide-ranging censorship of books will slow down across the U.S. They’ll be amplifying, thanks to right-wing and extremist white supremacist groups like No Left Turn, Moms for Liberty, and dozens of state-based organizations, as well as dark money.

State governments are packed with representatives who are being supported by these groups, as well as dark money, and by listening to these constituencies, many politicians are sponsoring bills with an anti–critical race theory (CRT) agenda. They’re also targeting school curriculum, demanding transparency over books purchased for libraries and those purchased for individual classrooms either as supplemental or required reading. Much of the discourse feels like the satanic panic but with the dark reality that by leading the efforts on censorship, these politicians feel they have a platform for which to seek reelection and support. We can look to Virginia as a bellwether for things to come, following the election of Glenn Youngkin.

A number of states have already enacted so-called anti-CRT bills, while other states are following those leads and either copying the playbook or are attempting to go one further with even more draconian bills meant as educational gag orders. Politico reported earlier this week the ways in which the GOP sees these bills as their “in” to building a “red wave.”

States with bills in place or under discussion include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Wisconsin is also floating around potential legislation that would put a similar chokehold in public facilities of higher education. Much has been made about Oklahoma’s bill in particular, which would put a bounty on teachers and librarians who carry books a parent deems inappropriate (where that money would come from in a state that ranks 47th in public education, which factors into the equation that determines state funding, remains a mystery).

If you’re in one of the above-mentioned states, it’s time to reach out to your representatives and demand they act to ensure these laws don’t pass, and/or you stay on top of your representatives with your dissatisfaction, reminding them they work for you. If you’re not in one of the above-mentioned states, the same assignment applies, but this time, write in support of intellectual freedom and the rights of students and educators to as wide a range of materials as possible.

As always, this toolkit for how to fight book bans and challenges will help you do the work, whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours. This primer on evaluating news sites will be helpful, too, particularly when it comes to the information you’re being presented about book challenges and state-focused censorship legislation.

Before diving into this week’s roundup of book censorship news — I’ve limited to news from January and a couple of bigger stories at the end of December — I’d love to know if there’s an angle to censorship, book challenges, or intellectual freedom you’d like to learn more about each week in this roundup. Feel free to drop me a line on social media or via email (it’s my first name at rionewmedia.com).

Book Challenges and Censorship News This Week: January 7, 2022

Llano Public Library (Texas) shut down to evaluate their collection. They’re under pressure from the county to remove “inappropriate” books and/or move titles to a more age-appropriate area, including a “YA Plus” section. Pella, Iowa, public library is hearing from community members who want Gender Queer removed from the shelves. Washington County School District (Utah) has pulled The Hate U Give and Out of Darkness. A big victory and thank you to everyone who wrote to the federal government about CARES funds being withheld from Leander and Round Rock school districts in Texas. The funds have been released without any books needing to be removed from shelves.
Lindbergh schools in Missouri have two books back on shelves. The removal of Gender Queer from Orange County, Florida, schools has some parents pushing back. This is a great look at the story, and the parents in this group are working alongside those in Brevard County’s parent group below. Brevard County Florida parents are challenging the Moms for Liberty group at the center of book challenges in their community. A messy school board meeting with clear anti-LGBTQ board members in Pennridge Schools (Pennsylvania) led to the removal of Heather Has Two Mommies from schools. Parents and community member are not happy. (This school board meeting is excruciating to listen to, but you can do so here). More on the fears surrounding silent censorship from Pennridge. In good news, Teton library (Wyoming) updated their collection development policy with clear anti-censorship language to prepare for potential challenges. Libraries: worth doing this now if you can and/or haven’t in a while. It might seem odd that a library not yet facing challenges would make a statement that they don’t tolerate censorship, but Austin Public Library’s statement has a huge impact locally, on the state level, and across the country for both libraries and their advocates. A look at a number of book bans and challenges in Arkansas. A discussion of what’s to be lost with anti–critical race theory guidelines as determined by school boards, with a focus on Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (California).Six books will remain on shelves at the Rockwood school libraries (Missouri). Three more titles are still under review. Lamar Independent School District (Texas) is reviewing Me and Earl and The Dying Girl after complaints. In the ongoing saga of book challenges at Campbell County Public Library district in Wyoming, two books have been moved from the YA to the adult section. Wake County Public Library librarians are protesting the removal of Gender Queer from the collection. Some of the backstory to this North Carolina censorship. A Mississippi state auditor is mad about antiracist books purchased for Mississippi libraries from a federal grant. That’s…not even state money. But it’s great for political clout, as it has some of the buzzword mafia’s favorite phrases: tax money, antiracism, libraries, and critical race theory. Osseo, Minnesota schools will keep Born a Crime on shelves. Parents complained about a poetry event that happens annually for students in Sarasota, Florida. It was canceled. Pitt County Schools in North Carolina are reviewing three titles in their middle school collection: All American Boys, Darkness Before Dawn, and Forged in Fire.

Further Reading

Book banning has a long and homophobic history.A great read on the context regarding public libraries and censorship in Texas. This is applicable nationwide. Judd Legum is one of my favorite independent journalists and he dives into the war on library books in one of his latest columns.

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