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The Book Banners’ Recruitment Agenda: Book Censorship News, February 3, 2023

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Kelly Jensen

Editor

Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

There are only so many ways to state that book censorship is not coming to an end any time soon. That until there is significant money and action on the part of those dedicated to the First Amendment rights of all, until anyone in the government does anything meaningful, we’re all subject to the rule of right wing Christian nationalist bigots.

Here’s a look at the recruitment website for “Community Patriots of Manatee County,” meant to call in members to go raid the schools and public libraries of books they don’t like. They lay out their goals very clearly. The agenda is not hidden.

One of the pieces that should be most disturbing from their call to action is this:

goals for the "wokebusters" of manatee county

That “parents” and “kids” are under scare quotes makes clear neither one need to be real. More, they are using children to push their agenda. Is that not what they’re claiming they are trying to stop from happening?

Manatee County, as you might remember from earlier this month, made entire classroom libraries inaccessible. Then, rather than point the finger where it needed to be pointed, the teachers were blamed. In this case, advocates for students got the classroom libraries reopened, but this is nowhere near the end of the battle in Manatee. It’s a tiny victory — classroom libraries aren’t inaccessible, which is literally the bare minimum — as there are untold numbers of “parents” sending their “kids” into the library to create a fake outrage over “inappropriate” books that “indoctrinate” young people. Dozens of books remain under review in the county.

Not enough? This week, Flagler County’s Moms For Liberty chapter shared a new list of books they want their members searching for. These titles come from Laverna in the Library, which is RatedBooks.org. Confused yet? Ratedbooks.org is an arm of Utah Parents United and No Left Turn in Education, so the fact that Moms for Liberty shared it should start to make you think about how all of these groups and their separate websites of “parental” book reviews are one in the same.

Many of these titles have already been subject to challenges, but expect these to see more bans in the coming months. Flagler’s Moms for Liberty group is one of the most active. Wondering what the links all are? They’re the downloadable reports from RatedBooks.org that cherry pick the passages from the text deemed “inappropriate.” Because who cares about the legal precedent of the Miller Test?

Yes, nearly every book on there is queer and/or about or by people of color.

All of that is to say: You need to act. This will not be ending through wishful thinking nor shedding tears or anger on the internet. If you still don’t know what to “do,” let me note that we have years and years of tips, tools, techniques, and templates for you to use. It’s everything short of writing the name of your school board members into the template, signing with your name, and emailing and/or showing up to the meeting.

Want all of that information in one place? Got you there, too: you can now buy How To Fight Book Bans and Censorship for $3, giving you all of the tools, tips, and information in a handy ebook.

Book Censorship News: February 3, 2023

  • Several schools in Alabama are kicking off Black History Month by canceling book events by Derrick Barnes, a Black children’s book author.
  • The Sora Digital Reading App, used in Orange County Unified Schools (California), has been banned pending investigation into the books available on it. THIS IS CENSORSHIP — an entire digital library removed because a couple of books made some parents angry.
  • Moms For Liberty in Broward County, Florida, have demanded several more books be removed from school shelves. Many are books used in AP classes.
  • The Black Friend has been banned in Spring Independent School District (Texas).
  • In Willard schools (Missouri), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has been banned. The parent behind this one is eager to bring up 23 more book challenges.
  • “Someone in the Central Bucks School District [Pennsylvania] administration is behind the first test of the district’s new controversial library book policy, and if successful, five book titles — all but one containing LGBTQ themes — could be removed.” How surprising.
  • It’s so hard to not want to shake these parents who are just realizing when they said books would be inaccessible and removed from schools, that meant empty shelves.
  • “According to the list read by Zerbe, parents have submitted requests for the district to reconsider the following books: ‘Tricks’ by Ellen Hopkins; ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini; ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison; ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ by Jesse Andrews; ‘This Book is Gay’ by Juno Dawson; ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky; ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ by George M. Johnson; and ‘Out of Darkness’ by Ashley Hope Perez.” This is Methacton school district in Pennsylvania. They can’t even be creative.
  • You don’t say: major corporations support a bigoted book banning legislator in North Dakota.
  • Homer Public Library (Alaska) will NOT be moving their queer books from the children’s section.
  • Ways to Make Sunshine will remain on shelves in Sumner County Schools (Tennessee).
  • The district attorney in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, will not be pressing charges against Hempfield School District after seven parents complained about explicit content in three books. That is a real sentence in 2023.
  • And in Penncrest School District (Pennsylvania), the lawyer has left because he disagrees with new book banning policies and policies targeting transgender students. Their. Lawyer. Left.
  • A mom who isn’t bothering to read the entirety of Gender Queer wants the book removed from Baltimore County Schools (Maryland).
  • “Last week, the Wilson County School board [Tennessee] voted to move The Perks of Being a Wallflower to the mature reading list. Following that decision, the school board received a letter from a Tennessee state representative that claims the school board is in violation of a state law by not removing it.” Government so small they are emailing school boards about one book.
  • Cardinal High School in Middlefield, Ohio, has had their spring play canceled because of concerns over “vulgarity.” The play gets performed in high schools all over the country. This is the second play to be canceled in the last month, and students involved in the first cancelation of a Holocaust play in Florida have been fearing for their own safety.
  • “The legislation that cleared the House Thursday was put forward by Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, and would require school principals or their designee to electronically catalog all printed and audiovisual materials in school libraries, identify whether the item contains graphic sexual content and make the catalog available to parents. It would also direct schools to permit parents to restrict their child’s access to any item that contains graphic sexual content and allow parents to request a graphic sexual content notation for any item.” This bill does not have a good chance of passing in the Virginia Senate, but this is how legislators are spending their time and taxpayer’s money. Meanwhile, a 6-year-old shot his teacher in the state a couple of weeks ago and weirdly, it was not over a book.
  • Leavitt Area High School (Maine) is seeing the same bigoted arguments in the challenge raised against Gender Queer as seen throughout the state and country. The book will remain on shelves.
  • And Tango Makes Three will remain on shelves in Root Elementary School (Fayetteville, Arkansas).
  • “‘Educators must be reined in from wasting precious school time from indoctrinating students from CRT, CSE or SEL,’ said Robbie Adams, a testifier in support of LB374.” This conversation is getting boring (Nebraska).
  • Woodland Park School District (Colorado) has suspended an entire part of a high school class lesson because a parent claimed it was “Critical Race Theory.” The lesson is about Civil Disobedience, you know, not only a crucial aspect of American history but part of the fundamental rights within the First Amendment. But I guess only white rights matter.
  • And in Hollidays Area School District (Pennsylvania), they spent precious school board time debating how big a “message of kindness, support, or inclusion” could be and decided no larger than a sheet of printer paper.
  • Turning Point is a dangerous organization, and if you haven’t been paying attention to how they’re infiltrating high schools and colleges, you need to.
  • Another top official in Orem Public Library (Utah) is retiring amid censorship controversies. Orem Public Library has been dealing with this since the early wave of book banning launched in 2021.
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers will remain on shelves at Henrico Schools (Virginia).
  • “Parents, check your children’s libraries. Most will contain books promoting the far-left’s anti-American and racially divisive agenda. Fair enough; it’s a free society. Or maybe it’s not. As seen in D-20, literature unhelpful to progressive indoctrination may get banned by committees of experts.” An incredibly ignorant and disingenuous op-ed published in the Colorado Gazette about “book banning.” It fundamentally does not bother to understand how libraries operate. These are the people getting on school boards, y’all, and I cannot emphasize that enough. Joe Dirt thinks he’s a better expert on how libraries operate and how literacy works than the actual trained professionals.
  • Isn’t it interesting that after the book banners get their 15 minutes of fame, they lose interest in doing what they demanded? (Pitt County, North Carolina).
  • This North Carolina NPR story on the attempt to ban Stamped at New Hanover County schools is worth reading. But what I want to draw your attention to is the top image and the sign being held: “Homeschool your kids.” This is their goal, y’all. This is what they want you to do in order to destroy public education. It should be noted that the homeschools they want you to attend line their pocketbooks. Now they want taxpayer money to do it, too. I’ve been explaining this for over a year now. Pay attention. The link to to Citizen Moms is about their homeschooling initiative.
  • The Jamestown Sun (North Dakota) really ran a letter to the editor comparing books about queer people to the heinous murderer Ted Bundy.
  • “The ticketed event, ‘Stolen Innocence: A Panel on the Insidious Ideology Infecting Your Children’s Education,’ took place inside the Pewaukee hotel, 2810 Golf Road [Wisconsin]. Hosted by local organization Parents on Patrol, five panelists explained to the sold-out venue how schools are ‘sexually grooming’ children by teaching them about gender identity and sexual orientation. A reporter covering the protest was not allowed access to the event.” They’re running this in Illinois this month, too. If a reporter can’t show up, you know how much they want their falsehoods publicized. “Parents on Patrol.”
  • Know what is NOT happening in Dublin, Ireland? The removal of queer books from children’s areas of the library.
  • Here are the next books being reviewed in Beaufort Public Schools (South Carolina).
  • The Mama Bears of Forsyth, Georgia, won their court case against the school board, wherein they were told they could not continue to read book passages aloud at meetings and cause a scene. Expect more of that coming out of that school district.
  • A parent in Sparta, New Jersey, is mad about The Upside of Unrequited being on school library shelves.