How Moms For Liberty’s Book Ratings System Enters Schools: Book Censorship News, June 10, 2022

Summer is here, and while the actual news of book challenges might slow down, that does not mean the work of those banning books is anywhere near done. In fact, this summer will be one where groups like Moms For Liberty will continue to build their book ratings system and push to have it used in school districts across the country.

In fact, they’re already doing it.

Image of a post from Brooke Stephens on Facebook about the moms for liberty rating system.

Folks like Stephens, who is the “curriculum director” of Utah Parents United, a “parental rights” group closely aligned with Moms For Liberty, are sharing that their ratings system is being implemented already. Stephens also does not deny — and in fact considers it publicity — that BookLooks has been called out as a Moms For Liberty joint.

So how will this happen? To their credit, it’s clever.

In Indianola, IA, the district received several book challenges during the school year. At the beginning of 2022, several individuals began showing up at school board meetings to complain about books. It was the same rhetoric and playbook used elsewhere across the country. Read passages, discuss how children need to be protected, toss in some words like “obscenity” defined in whatever way is most convenient.

But then, have someone who can advocate for a solution to this problem hampering the school libraries. In Indianola, that came from Patty Alexander, who ran for a seat on the school board last year and was defeated.

At the board’s April 12 meeting, Alexander and her husband both showed up and discussed inappropriate books. But Alexander did not keep herself seated with attendees. Instead, she’s seated alongside the board, as she’s presenting a suggested rating system to the board. You can — and should — watch the first 45 minutes of the meeting. In addition to the discussion of the ratings system was the appearance of the three books formally challenged, as well as a number of books “weeded” from the collection already (including, surprise, Gender Queer).

Many, though not all, of the members of the committee seemed impressed by this system. There would be further talk, particularly because it would take a long time to go through the current school libraries to label, but this system looked pretty good. There was no discussion of where the system came from outside of it being called “like the movie ratings system,” and no discussion of who was reading, reviewing, and writing up the book information.

It will come as little surprise that the local Moms For Liberty group is where this discussion began, and it will be less of a surprise that the Alexanders used the very Moms For Liberty system cloaked as “BookLooks” (and similarly named sites because there is more than one).

Image from the Moms For Liberty, Warren, IA group about their successful board meeting with the ratings system.
image from comments on post about the ratings system.

The link in the comments? It is the Moms For Liberty system.

What is disturbing is how the board members did little questioning of the wheres or hows of the system, and worse, that Alexander seems to have either been in collaboration with the board OR convinced them pretty easily to have this conversation. That the immediate response was to report back to the Facebook group about the success will lead to copycat measures in other communities where the board is not as tapped into what’s happening nationwide.

There has not yet been a final decision in this story, but it’s a sign of what’s to come over the summer as these groups amp up their efforts for the fall. These victories, even if more symbolic, will help codify a system for how to do this, further allowing right-wing groups to infiltrate schools and push their agenda into the schools.

It’s likely that the ego Moms For Liberty has from winning a Heritage Foundation award this week will not hurt them, either.

Call To Action

This week, YA author Eliot Schrefer was on the Trevor Noah show talking about his latest book, Queer Ducks. It is a fabulous conversation, and the final two minutes are especially vital for our cultural censorship culture.

Continue to have these conversations and continue to be open, honest, and unafraid to engage in talking about the sex stuff. That is a key part of how we’ll continue to champion stories for young readers who need these books to understand who they are and see the world as it truly is.

Book Censorship News: June 10, 2022

  • The vote on whether or not Jack of Hearts will stay in a Kent, Washington, middle school was tabled.
  • 30 LGBTQ+ books went missing from a New York public library. Hide the Pride?
  • This’ll come as a complete shock, but the Rapid City Area School board knew about the books that were pulled when it happened. Their attempt to get rid of the books through the “surplus material” vote last month looks even worse.
  • ““We also reviewed all elementary school libraries and did not find copies of the book in question,” she wrote.” A parent who doesn’t have kids in the Newport-Mesa school district (California) complained about the book Flamer which…wasn’t in the school libraries like she claimed.
  • In Fairview School District (PA), a superintendent decided that Gender Queer was inappropriate and pulled it from shelves. (Note: this is not a typical news source but the information is fair).
  • Me and Earl and The Dying Girl will stay on shelves in Elizabethtown schools (PA).
  • The unhinged behavior of book banners is in Canada, too.
  • Nampa, Idaho, schools — you may remember that school board from its removal of 22 titles forever — wants a new book challenge policy before the new school year.
  • Cody schools (WY) will not remove The Color Purple.
  • Local media in my area is not great, so this article is also not great. But what is great is that Downers Grove schools (IL) will keep Gender Queer on shelves. You may remember this challenge as the one that the Proud Boys showed up to last November.
  • “But the way he did it was he encouraged people to come to come to a library board meeting, and said that the library director had been filling the shelves with Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ topics and other topics. He wants, ultimately, the library to stop purchasing books that relate to those topics.” This is a public library in Hillsdale, Michigan.
  • Following a controversy over a book featuring a trans main character, a Newbury Park elementary school in California was graffitied with the words “pervs work here.”
  • A Pride display in Tyler Public Library (TX) was moved after complaints. The display was for PFLAG, a group that supports queer children and their families.
  • Speaking of Pride displays, Enid Public library (OK) hosted their first one since they were told they could not have displays. The new policy allows outside groups to have such displays…none of this makes sense.
  • In Vinton, Iowa, the public library director left because of how the community has been treating queer folks. Book displays for LGBTQ+ books were also under fire.
  • ““There’s just such a push of radicals to sexualize everything in our public schools and our public arena,” resident Alice Brown said.” Sure, Alice. This is the Abilene Public Library in Texas.
  • In Catawba County, North Carolina, several of the 24 books challenged have been reviewed. Of them, everything will remain as-is in the high school library but three in the middle school will be moved and considered instead for the high school.
  • What’s happening in Gorham Schools (ME) is just a mess.
  • Here’s our weekly update on what’s happening — or not happening — in Anchorage Public Libraries (AK).
  • Last — and absolutely not least — spend some time with Kyle Lukoff’s column in Booklist (page 19). “Freedom can grow, but oppression metastasizes.”