It’s a holiday week, so let’s keep this short and sweet—and end another year of coverage on a promising note.
Earlier this month, I rounded up the current lawsuits pertaining to book bans across the country. Among them are two lawsuits in Iowa aimed at the state’s controversial SF 496, the bill that contributed to the use of tools like AI to determine whether or not school library books needed to be banned.
Lawyers representing Penguin Random House in one of the suits said that the attorneys representing Iowa reported that the law was being misused to ban LGBTQ+ content. Even though the state ban on LGBTQ+ instruction (whatever that means) would still apply to grades six and lower, this does not mean books with LGBTQ+ content cannot be made available in school libraries. Only books that depict “sex acts” as defined by state statute were subject to removal from school libraries.
In other words, those are not books with or about LGBTQ+ characters.
As Andrew Albanese wrote in a piece at Publisher’s Weekly, the challenges of navigating this new law—which passed with the help of state members of Moms For Liberty who have enjoyed a cozy relationship with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds—showed in the initial lawsuit hearing:
In an illuminating exchange, [Judge] Locher asked [Iowa attorney] Johnston to elaborate: Could a fourth grade teacher share a book with gay characters with students? No, Johnston replied. Could a student choose to write a book report about a book with gay characters? Yes, Johnston said. “A teacher could say, ‘I want all the students to write a student essay.’ If that student then themselves goes to the library and selects a book about gay characters, that’s perfectly fine.”
This lawsuit, nor the other active lawsuit in the state, has not been settled as of writing. But let’s hope that this small victory is the start of more to come.
Book Censorship News: December 29, 2023
- Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just repealed the “decency” ordinance they rammed through six months ago. The ordinance had a huge impact on the county library system, which will be implementing a number of changes this year, including restrictions on LGBTQ+ books and access for those under 18—but will the repeal of the ordinance change the new policies?
- Rolla Public Library (MO) is dealing with a challenge over a puberty book, The Every Body Book, by one of the city council members.
- A Massachusetts police officer is apologizing for raiding a classroom to look for Gender Queer…is a real thing from our current timeline in America.
- Lexington-Richland School District 5 (SC) removed the entire A Court of Mist and Fury series from the district. This board decision was made despite the fact the review committee said it should remain on shelves.
- Denying an appeal, it’s official: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) will remain on shelves in the Las Cruces school district (NM).
- (Paywalled) 8 books that were challenged in Northview Public Schools (MI) will remain on shelves. The books are Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Mass, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, Push by Sapphire, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, Tricks by Ellen Hopkins, Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
- “In Alabama, organizations like Clean Up Alabama and Moms for Liberty have become prominent voices in this debate. The recent initiative by the Alabama Public Library Service to create a submission form for public book concerns, while not publicly disclosed, is another step in this contentious direction. This, coupled with some lawmakers’ intentions to involve the State Legislature in book banning and defunding non-compliant libraries, signals a worrying escalation.” More clear-eyed, honest reporting like this about the state of censorship. Remember that book banning is the tool, not a byproduct, of fascism.
- Big Walnut Local Schools (OH) banned Pride flags and any displays of materials not directly related to the current unit of study in classrooms. Talk about small government.
- Gadsden Public Library (AL) might lose some funding because a book banner is mad about LGBTQ+ books.
- “The leader of a far-right organization in St. Tammany has withdrawn the more than 150 book challenges her organization has submitted to the parish’s library review board. The complaints, primarily submitted by Connie Phillips and other conservative activists from her organization, the St. Tammany Parish Library Accountability Project, target books deemed inappropriate for children. Most of the titles touch on LGBTQ+ themes. “We are confident that our new Parish Council, Governor, and state lawmakers will make the necessary changes to protect children from sexually explicit material in the children’s section,” Phillips wrote in an email to St. Tammany Parish Library Director Kelly LaRocca.” And onward it goes in St. Tammany Parish Public Library.
- Washoe County Library System (NV) is once again dealing with the fallout of not banning LGBTQ+ books and not canceling Drag Storytime, thanks to the bigots who continue to badger the system.
- The current realities of public libraries and quorum courts in Arkansas.
Also In This Story Stream
- What Updates Should Library Collection Policies Include?: Book Censorship News, February 23, 2024
- Targeting Demographic Data to Skew Reality: Book Censorship News, February 16, 2024
- Why Do We Even Read?: Book Censorship News, February 9, 2024
- American Intolerance and Book Bans: Book Censorship News, February 2, 2024
- The Library Trust Matrix: Book Censorship News, January 26, 2024
- Be Your Own Library Advocate: Book Censorship News, January 19, 2024
- Book Banning Will Not Stop at Schools: Book Censorship News, January 12, 2024
- Data Overwhelmingly Supports Libraries and Library Workers: Book Censorship News, January 5, 2024
- Highlights and Lowlights from 2023 in Book Banning News: Book Censorship News, December 22, 2023