Banning books in schools (1 Viewer)

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    Optimus Prime

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    Excellent article I thought deserved its own thread
    =========================

    On the surface, it would appear that book censors and censored authors like myself can agree on one thing: Books are powerful.

    Particularly books for children and teens.

    Why else would people like me spend so much time and energy writing them?

    Why else would censors spend so much time and energy trying to keep them out of kids’ hands?

    In a country where the average adult is reading fewer and fewer books, it’s a surprise to find Americans arguing so much about them.

    In this election year, parents and politicians — so many politicians — are jumping into the fray to say how powerful books can be.

    Granted, politicians often make what I do sound like witchcraft, but I take this as a compliment.

    I’ll admit, one of my first thoughts about the current wildfire of attempted censorship was: How quaint.

    Conservatives seemed to be dusting off their playbook from 1958, when the only way our stories could get to kids was through schools and libraries.

    While both are still crucial sanctuaries for readers, they’re hardly the only options. Plenty of booksellers supply titles that are taken off school shelves.

    And words can be very widely shared free of charge on social media and the rest of the internet. If you take my book off a shelf, you keep it away from that shelf, but you hardly keep it away from readers.

    As censorship wars have raged in so many communities, damaging the lives of countless teachers, librarians, parents and children, it’s begun to feel less and less quaint.

    This is not your father’s book censorship…..

    Here’s something I never thought I’d be nostalgic for: sincere censors. When my first novel, “Boy Meets Boy,” was published in 2003, it was immediately the subject of many challenges, some of which kept the book from ever getting on a shelf in the first place.

    At the time, a challenge usually meant one parent trying to get a book pulled from a school or a library, going through a formal process.

    I often reminded myself to try to find some sympathy for these parents; yes, they were wrong, and their desire to control what other people in the community got to read was wrong — but more often than not, the challenge was coming from fear of a changing world, a genuine (if incorrect) belief that being gay would lead kids straight to ruination and hell, and/or the misbegotten notion that if all the books that challenged the (homophobic, racist) status quo went away, then the status quo would remain intact.

    It was, in some ways, as personal to them as it was to those of us on the other side of the challenge.

    And nine times out of 10, the book would remain on the shelf.

    It’s not like that now. What I’ve come to believe, as I’ve talked to authors and librarians and teachers, is that attacks are less and less about the actual books.

    We’re being used as targets in a much larger proxy war.

    The goal of that war isn’t just to curtail intellectual freedom but to eviscerate the public education system in this country.

    Censors are scorching the earth, without care for how many kids get burned.

    Racism and homophobia are still very much present, but it’s also a power grab, a money grab. The goal for many is a for-profit, more authoritarian and much less diverse culture, one in which truth is whatever you’re told it is, your identity is determined by its acceptability and the past is a lie that the future is forced to emulate.

    The politicians who holler and post and draw up their lists of “harmful” books aren’t actually scared of our books.

    They are using our books to scare people.

     
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    Schools, Public Libraries and now prisons
    ================================

    The literary advocacy group PEN America has released a list of the most banned or restricted books in the US prison system, and the rundown comes with some unexpected entries.

    The list includes Amy Schumer’s memoir The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, flagged by Florida officials for graphic sexual content and for being “a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War; Barrington Barber’s Anyone Can Draw: Create Sensational Artwork in Easy Steps; and Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars, which comes in as the most banned book.

    The banned books list, released Wednesday to coincide with Prison Banned Books Week, comes amid an increase in type of books being banned from the prison system, the group said in a statement.

    “The common concept underpinning the censorship we’re seeing is that certain ideas and information are a threat,” said the report’s lead author, Moira Marquis, senior manager in the prison and justice writing department at PEN.

    Marquis told the Associated Press that the most common reason for books being held back is security and sexual content. But that those terms are used loosely and include, in Michigan, Leonard’s thriller Cuba Libre and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal both listed as a “threat to the order/security of institution”.

    A spokesman for the Michigan department of corrections told the wire service that both titles were being re-considered by a new review committee.…….

     
    The largest US publisher of books for children has a new collection that sounds wonderful. It’s called “Share every story, celebrate every voice”.

    But the backstory isn’t so wonderful.

    School librarians around the country can opt out of that Scholastic Books collection of 64 “diverse” books for their popular book fairs.

    They can choose to hit what one librarian has called “the bigot button” in order to stay out of the line of fire of rightwing parents and politicians. Presumably to pre-emptively placate the anti-woke mobs, the opt-out effectively removes the curated collection of “diverse” books from the offerings.

    One example is this title: Justice Ketanji, by Denise Lewis Patrick, which tells the story of how Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to serve as a US supreme court justice. The brief biography details how Jackson “refused to let the naysayers stop her from rising to the top”.

    Cover the children’s eyes immediately!

    Another, which depicts same-sex parents and interracial families living in peace and harmony with others is All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold. Sure to poison young minds, right?

    Or how about Because of You, John Lewis, by Andrea Davis Pinkney? It’s the tale of a boy who becomes inspired by the late Georgia congressman’s decades-long struggle for rights. It focuses on Lewis’s role in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a key milestone in the civil rights movement.

    Another, I Am Ruby Bridges, is a picture book whose author was in 1960 the first Black child to integrate a school in Louisiana.

    By all means, do not expose young people to these heroic figures of American history. They might never recover from the trauma.

    After some negative national publicity and protests by authors and librarians, Scholastic Books defended itself by saying that it had been forced into this decision. They claim they did it to protect teachers and libraries in regions that may have regulations – or even just proposed regulations – prohibiting specific types of books.

    “These laws create an almost impossible dilemma: back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted,” the publisher wrote in a recent public statement. “We cannot make a decision for our school partners around what risks they are willing to take.”

    It’s a weak argument. Even in these absurd times, it seems extremely unlikely that state or local governments would fire or sue librarians or volunteers for putting these books on tables for potential purchase.……


    After facing backlash, Scholastic has reversed course on its controversial decision to separate certain book titles in school fairs by race, gender or sexuality, allowing districts to opt in or out of the catalog.

    The separate catalog, called Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice, was a response to dozens of state laws restricting how the topics are discussed in schools and which could threaten school districts, teachers or librarians.

    In a public statement, Ellie Berger, the president of Scholastic Trade Publishing, apologized on behalf of the company to “every author, illustrator, licensor, educator, librarian, parent and reader who was hurt by our action”.

    “Even if the decision was made with good intention, we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case,” she said. “We recognize and acknowledge the pain caused, and that we have broken the trust of some of our publishing community, customers, friends, trusted partners and staff, and we also recognize that we will now need to regain that trust.”…….

     
    Schools, Public Libraries and now prisons
    ================================

    The literary advocacy group PEN America has released a list of the most banned or restricted books in the US prison system, and the rundown comes with some unexpected entries.

    The list includes Amy Schumer’s memoir The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, flagged by Florida officials for graphic sexual content and for being “a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War; Barrington Barber’s Anyone Can Draw: Create Sensational Artwork in Easy Steps; and Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars, which comes in as the most banned book.

    The banned books list, released Wednesday to coincide with Prison Banned Books Week, comes amid an increase in type of books being banned from the prison system, the group said in a statement.

    “The common concept underpinning the censorship we’re seeing is that certain ideas and information are a threat,” said the report’s lead author, Moira Marquis, senior manager in the prison and justice writing department at PEN.

    Marquis told the Associated Press that the most common reason for books being held back is security and sexual content. But that those terms are used loosely and include, in Michigan, Leonard’s thriller Cuba Libre and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal both listed as a “threat to the order/security of institution”.

    A spokesman for the Michigan department of corrections told the wire service that both titles were being re-considered by a new review committee.…….


    Reading bans are rising at an alarming rate in prisons across the country, with new PEN America data revealing that those incarcerated are being robbed of the occasional magazine and even recipe books on how to make ramen.

    For almost 22 years, Zeke Caligiuri subscribed to the New Yorker magazine from prison in Minnesota. He was meant to receive 52 annual issues but claimed during his sentencing to have never gotten the full amount. Instead, a non-delivery notice with vague wording would arrive at the prison post room, sometimes flagging an advertisement that was deemed inappropriate or just one article in an issue of many. After searching for information about what he couldn’t read, Caligiuri would sink into a period of overwhelming defeat.

    “I realized that my world needed to get bigger,” he said. “But the things I needed to see and know were being held back.”

    During this time, the words of New Yorker writers like Adam Gopnik, Ariel Levy and Emily Nussbaum were means of escaping the monotony of incarceration. Prison was programmed by a rigorous schedule, with days hardly extending beyond what was for lunch or when inmates could watch television. Searching for meaning, Caligiuri sometimes slept on the bunks with a book next to his head. When he could get it, poetry was the first thing he read when he woke up.

    “If you take the books and culture out of these places, you have a zoo,” he said. “Language is the building block of creation. For me, in prison, it was the biggest thing. Words were the only thing connecting me with the world, with my family, and with my community.”

    Reading bans inside prisons are happening at a more concerning rate than those in public schools and libraries and are often less documented, making it hard to determine the extent of the censorship.

    “This is an underreported area because prisons are generally not visible and are isolated environments,” Moira Marquis, the report’s lead author and senior manager in the prison and justice writing department at PEN, told the Guardian. “The people making decisions are not publicly elected officials, so there is very little accountability. They do not keep track of the censorship they oversee and don’t feel the need to justify what they are doing.”

    With no centralized authority determining which reading materials inmates can access or why they can’t get hold of certain titles, censorship in prisons across the country remains a gray area. What is allowed varies state by state or by individual prison. The reasons can range from the size of a book to its sender to the color of the mailed wrapping paper. Even when they make it into the mailroom, there is no guarantee they will reach the recipient on the envelope.

    Florida now has the highest number of titles banned behind bars at 22,825, followed by Texas with 10,265, according to PEN’s new report Reading Between the Bars. Other states like Kansas, Virginia and New York follow behind.……

     
    CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — She refused to ban books, many of them about racism and the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. And for that, Suzette Baker was fired as a library director in a rural county in central Texas.

    “I’m kind of persona non grata around here,” said Baker, who had headed the Kingsland, Texas, library system until she refused to take down a prominent display of several books people had sought to ban over the years.

    Now, Baker is fighting back. She and two other librarians who were similarly fired have filed workplace discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    And as culture war battles to keep certain books from children and teens put public and school libraries increasingly under pressure, their goal is redemption and, where possible, eventual reinstatement.

    So far, it’s a wait-and-see whether the claims will succeed — and set new precedent — in the struggle between teachers and librarians around the country who oppose book bans and conservative activists who say some books are inappropriate for young minds……



     
    Steve Martin had a brilliant reaction to a county in Florida removing his 2000 novella Shopgirlfrom its libraries.

    The 78-year-old comedian’s New York Timesbest-seller, which also served as the basis for his 2005 film of the same name starring himself and Claire Danes, is among 313 titles recently banned from Collier County Public Schools libraries.

    Martin announced the news on Instagram on Monday (6 November), writing: “So proud to have my book Shopgirl banned in Collier County, Florida! Now people who want to read it will have to buy a copy!”……..

     
    Several families are suing to stop Iowa's new law that bans books from school libraries, forbids teachers from raising LGBTQ+ issues and forces educators in some cases to out the gender identity of students to their parents.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Lambda announced the federal lawsuit Tuesday, saying the law passed earlier this year by the Republican-led Legislature and enacted this fall “seeks to silence LGBTQ+ students, erase any recognition of LGBTQ+ people from public schools, and bans books with sexual or LGBTQ+ content.”

    Under the law, educators are forbidden from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students through grade six, and school administrators are required to notify parents if students ask to change their pronouns or names. The law's section that bans books depicting sex acts from school libraries includes an exception for religious texts, like the Christian Bible.

    The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ children, and seven Iowa students, ranging in age from fourth to 12th grades, and their families. It seeks an injunction blocking the law while the lawsuit plays out in court and ultimately seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional as a violation of students' and teachers' free speech and equal protection rights.

    “The First Amendment does not allow our state or our schools to remove books or issue blanket bans on discussion and materials simply because a group of politicians or parents find them offensive,” ACLU attorney Thomas Story said.

    Gov. Kim Reynolds, who signed the measure into law, defended it as “protecting children from pornography and sexually explicit content.”

    “Books with graphic depictions of sex acts have absolutely no place in our schools,” Reynolds said in a written statement.

    One plaintiff, Iowa City high school senior Puck Carlson, said in an online news conference that the law is having a devastating effect on Iowa LGBTQ+ students. She has watched her younger LGBTQ+ sister struggle to feel safe in school since the law took effect, she said.

    “School is one of the main places that children read, and being able to access literature in which you can see yourself is instrumental to a student’s discovery of themselves,” Carlson said. “It certainly was to me. So removing these books not only makes people less visible, but it also stops students from discovering and being true to themselves.”

    Penalties for violating the law will go into effect Jan. 1 and place administrators, teachers, librarians and other school staff at risk of disciplinary action, including termination and loss of their state professional education license.

    Schools across Iowa have pulled hundreds of titles from their shelves in response to the law, the ACLU said. Many of the banned books contain content of particular relevance to LGBTQ+ students, including LGBTQ+ characters, historical figures or themes..............

     
    This is totally crazy. These people are so corrupt and dishonest. The thread isn’t all that long, it is definitely worth the read. TLDR: this woman testified to a school board against Scholastic books and book fairs without disclosing she is an employee of a Scholastic competitor that features only children‘s books written by right wing authors, some of whom promote conspiracy theories. She suggested the school board switch their contract to a particular company without telling them she is the public relations coordinator for their sister company.



     
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    so not quite banning but how do we feel about some Dr. Seuss book voluntarily pulled or others such as James Bond, Roald Dahl novels having a few lines/passages rewritten to remove offensive terms?
    ================

    BOSTON (AP) — Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

    “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

    “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.

    The other books affected are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

    The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company, which was founded by Seuss’ family, told AP.

    “Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,” it said.

    In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. “If I Ran the Zoo” includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

     
    Several years ago, I made a visit to a local book sale and came across a rare 1964 edition of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Popular in its own right, the novel has also served as the inspiration for a number of movies, including “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” – the classic 1971 movie starring the late Gene Wilder – a 2005 reboot starring Johnny Depp, and “Wonka”, the 2023 version.

    As a child of the 1980s, I had voraciously consumed Dahl’s novels, so I knew the book well. But the illustrations in this particular edition looked unfamiliar.

    Once I brought the worn and tattered book home and began to read it aloud to my kids, I realized that some passages looked unfamiliar as well. My voice faltered as the Oompa-Loompas – the pint-sized workers in Wonka’s chocolate factory – appeared and Charlie asked, “Are they really made out of chocolate, Mr. Wonka?”

    To which Wonka replied: “Nonsense!”

    “They belong to a tribe of tiny miniature pygmies known as Oompa-Loompas,” Wonka explains in this version of the book. “I discovered them myself. I brought them over from Africa myself – the whole tribe of them, three thousand in all. I found them in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before.”

    The accompanying black-and-white illustration of several dark-skinned Oompa-Loompas left me stunned.

    Dahl’s book is part of a long history of children’s books that feature racist stereotypes – a list that includes six Dr. Seuss books that were removed from publication in 2021. Other children’s classics, such as “Peter Pan” and “Mary Poppins,” have also been criticized for perpetuating racism.

    As an English lecturer who specializes in decoding some of the hidden meanings and dark realities in popular children’s stories, I looked deeper into the blatant racism in the 1964 edition of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” comparing it to a more recent copy from 2011.

    Notably, the description of the Oompa-Loompa’s skin had been changed from “almost black” to “rosy-white.” And rather than coming from Africa, they came from “Loompaland.” I learned that these changes were made by Dahl for the 1974 edition after criticism by the NAACP and others. Dahl’s response was to remove the Black characters altogether.

    Yet as philosophy lecturer Ron Novy points out, even the latest editions of the book still perpetuate racist and imperialist ideologies..............

     
    Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are to be reissued with a number of racial references removed and a disclaimer that the books might use terms of attitudes “considered offensive by modern readers”.

    April marks 70 years since Casino Royale, Fleming’s first book featuring British spy Bond, was published. To mark the occasion, a full set of the thrillers will be reissued.

    Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which owns the rights to the author’s work, employed sensitivity readers to look at the texts and make recommendations for changes. The changes include the removal of the N-word in almost all cases, and omitting references to the ethnicity of a number of minor characters.

    The reissued books will also carry a disclaimer, according to the Telegraph, which will explain the changes and will read: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.

    “A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.”

    Many of the changes in the Bond books are around the depiction of Black people. In Live and Let Die, Bond’s comment that would-be African criminals in the gold and diamond trades are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” has been changed to just “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought”, says the Telegraph.

    Another change comes in a scene where Bond visits a nightclub in Harlem, and a reference to the “audience panting and grunting like pigs at the trough” has been changed to “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room”.

    A statement from Ian Fleming Publications to the Telegraph said that they had “reviewed the text of the original Bond books and decided our best course of action was to follow Ian’s lead”.

    “We have made changes to Live and Let Die that he himself authorised,” the statement continued. “Following Ian’s approach, we looked at the instances of several racial terms across the books and removed a number of individual words or else swapped them for terms that are more accepted today but in keeping with the period in which the books were written.”...............

     
    Excellent article
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    PENSACOLA, Fla. — A teacher unable to read books to her fourth-grade students without seeking permission. A pastor worried children will encounter graphic sexual material in the titles waiting on classroom shelves. A superintendent fired in part, he said, for refusing to yank books out of the schools.


    The battle over what children should be allowed to read in school has riven Florida’s Escambia County School District. It’s part of a national battle, as school book objections surge to historic highs across the country.


    In Escambia County, the controversy kicked off in 2022, when a high school language arts teacher, Vicki Baggett, challenged more than 100 books for what she called inappropriate content.

    The challenges would spur the removal or restriction of scores of titles, contribute to the superintendent’s termination and draw an ongoing federal lawsuit that seeks to restore the books and alleges district officials have violated students’ and teachers’ constitutional rights.

    Over the course of a year, The Washington Post interviewed people on all sides of the debate in Escambia County schools to understand how the spike in book challenges affected how they live, learn and read. (Baggett, the prolific challenger, denied several interview requests.)

    These are their stories — shared in their own words.

    Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.


    Contacted about The Post’s reporting, the Escambia district sent a one-sentence statement: “Thanks for reaching out, but we are unable to comment on pending litigation.”

    Susan Ingram: The librarian who left

    I always loved reading. It takes you to places you’ve never been. To places that don’t exist, like the world of Harry Potter. It teaches you to walk in someone else’s shoes. You can feel what it was like for Rosa Parks to sit on that bus.

    And I always loved kids. Reading and kids. That’s why I became a librarian two decades ago. And I loved being a librarian — until the challenges started coming in.


    More than 100 of them, many against books by and about Black and LGBTQ people. Against books that I adored — like “Monday’s Not Coming,” about a girl whose best friend disappears over the summer. “New Kid,” which tells what it’s like to be the only Black kid at a mostly White school. “When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball,” a picture book about a wonderful basketball player who overcame polio and racism.


    The challenger said these books were wrong. Race-baiting. Anti-White. Woke. None of this made sense to me. I don’t even know what “woke” means.

    I had to pull the challenged books off the shelves. I had to put them in a restricted area behind the front desk. Students would come up to me and ask for the books. They’d say, “I can see it.” They’d point. “Can I check out the book?” A lot of African American students did this. They all wanted to read “The Hate U Give,” a novel about a 16-year-old Black girl who sees a police officer shoot and kill her best friend.


    And I had to tell them no. I had to send those kids home with a permission slip for their parents to sign instead. Luckily, their parents signed. But what if they hadn’t?


    Then another law went into effect, giving parents more power over book selection. And my job changed again. Now, I had to submit every book I wanted to buy for approval by a committee made up of two other teachers, a parent and someone who lived in the area. None of them were librarians…….

    Heather Van Sickle: The teacher who feels unable to teach

    In January, I was told to clear out my classroom library. I was supposed to box up the nearly 500 books I’d spent 15 years collecting, take them away and look through every single one to figure out if it might be a problem.

    For some reason.


    I’m a fourth-grade teacher. I teach English language arts. I know my subject, I know my books. There’s nothing bad in my books. There’s no spookiness or inappropriateness in my classroom library.


    So I said no. I’m not doing that. I’m not going to rifle through 500 books to find the ones someone might have trouble with. These are all books that, as a trained educator, I have chosen.

    I’m not going to take time away from connecting with students and parents, or writing up my lesson plans, to box up books because of someone’s irrational fear of — what? I’m not sure.

    Other teachers said the same thing. So the district went back to the drawing board.
Instead of taking away our books, they’re making media specialists catalogue every single book in every single teacher’s classroom library.

    Instead of working with children, our media specialists are inside classrooms looking at books for hours and hours and hours. And if they find a book that isn’t in our regular library, it has to go.


    They’re also entering the books into an online database. So parents can search the books that are available and challenge them if they don’t like what they find. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a parent. It could be anyone. It could be my next-door neighbor…….

    Gary Porter: The pastor determined to protect

    People ask me why I go to the Escambia County Board of Education meetings. People ask, “Do you have any children in the school system?” “Do you have grandchildren in the school system?” The answer to both of those questions is no.


    But I am a resident of the county. I own a home here. Half my property taxes go to the schools. I have a vested interest. And I’m a faith leader, a pastor.
    Parents come to me with their concerns. They say, “What can we do?” They’re scared to speak publicly, to stand up in a room of hundreds of people. They ask me, “Would you come to the school board meeting, Pastor?” “Would you say something?”


    So I do. I feel an obligation to do that.
And that’s where I heard about the bad books. People were presenting about books meant for third-, fourth-, fifth-graders. But I heard the stuff in these books and I thought, Wait a minute. The sexual information in these books, I didn’t encounter until I was a teenager. A child doesn’t have the cognitive skill to process that. These books are answering questions that children aren’t even asking.


    After that, I started researching. I went to websites where the books are listed and you can read the context, read some excerpts. It’s kind of like Cliffs Notes. I went through those, and you know what? It’s just not healthy. It’s just not good.

    There’s “And Tango Makes Three,” about the first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies. First of all, scientifically, that’s an impossibility.

    Secondly, I don’t think it’s helpful to the child. This is not the time and the place to bring that subject up. Whether you agree with the LGBTQ community or you don’t, to bring this in at a young age, that is when we start indoctrinating. It’s not honest.


    And look, if you’ve got a young person in the school system and they’ve got parents who are two men, or two women, they should not feel threatened by the removal of this book. Their life in that home, it still continues. It’s not a removal of them. It’s not a removal of anybody in the LGBTQ community.

    Here in America, people have the freedom to make whatever choices they make.

    That’s what makes America America……

    Lindsay Durtschi: The parent who became a plaintiff

    I have never worried, “What if my child picks up an adult book?” Maybe I parent a little more free range than some. But that’s nobody’s business — and how others parent is none of my business.


    What is my business is what books my child can read at school. If you don’t want your child to read something you find inappropriate, there is an “opt out” form. Every school in Escambia County has that form. You can opt your child out of reading that book.


    But you can’t tell other children what to read. Or — you shouldn’t be able to.

    One person is responsible for the majority of book challenges in Escambia County. And I just ask myself: To what end? What are we trying to do here? Who do you think you’re saving? What do you think is out there that’s so awful?


    Some of the books she challenged are hard reads. They talk about child molestation and things that are tough to hear. But they’re meant to be hard reads. That’s how we learn.


    Some of the books just bring children joy.

    I’m a doctor. In my office, I have the book “When Aidan Became a Brother,” which is about a transgender boy. I use it for children that are having learning-related visual problems. As we’re testing out lenses or different therapies, I’ll have them read that. It’s great for all ages. It has beautiful pictures. No one has gotten upset about it. Ever.


    But the district is listening to the challenger. Our children, my children, are losing access to books.


    I feel like we’re walking back in time. We’re putting kids back in the closet. All this progress we made in my lifetime, in my parents’ lifetime, we’re just rewinding all of it. We’re going back to this perceived great America. When the people in power were all White men. When it was normal to use the n-word in the living room.


    I don’t want my kids to be like that.
So I decided to take some action. I’m suing my school district to get the books back……..

    Aleora Holman: The student who feels silenced

    My friends and I like to hang out in the library before school. But this year, for a long time they wouldn’t let us into the library. They said it was closed: under construction. Then when it finally opened, we came back in and it wasn’t a library anymore.


    All the shelves were covered in black paper. There were no books. There was nobody reading. There was nobody checking things out. It wasn’t a library. It was just a room.


    Initially, I was confused. Then I got angry. I found out why the books were covered up. It’s because of all these new laws and school rules that happened because some people were really upset the library had books about LGBTQ people — books about people like me.

    I was raised very religious. The kind of Christianity that says you go to hell if you’re gay. I was taught that women belong in the kitchen, wearing dresses. The man works. The man wears a suit.
But I grew out of that. I did my own reading online. I made friends who were gay. I realized gay people aren’t possessed by demons. They’re just people.

    I’m 17 now, and I’m pansexual, which means I like anybody. I’m also transgender and nonbinary, because I don’t identify with male or female. I’m just somewhere in the middle where it really doesn’t matter. You just kind of do you.


    I’m never going to understand the argument that having gay couples in children’s books is not age appropriate. I mean, straight couples are literally everywhere.

    It doesn’t make sense to say “And Tango Makes Three” is age inappropriate. It’s penguins. It’s wholesome. It’s a childish way of introducing, you know, that there’s not just women and men that like each other — sometimes there are boys that like each other.


    Nobody thinks, when they walk into school, “I really hope I don’t read a book about a gay couple today.” If anything, every now and then I’ll have the worry, “What if today’s the day that somebody shoots up the school?” It’s pitiful that people are deciding to focus on something like books instead of a real problem like guns……..



     
    GREAT BARRINGTON — The plain clothed police officer who entered an eighth grade classroom to search for a book wore a body camera and recorded the incident, leading to more legal questions and concerns.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and other free speech advocates say they are alarmed by the recording, as well as the entire Dec. 8 incident that took place after classes let out at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School.

    They also say they cannot recall any instances of police going to a school to search for a book. Schools and libraries have internal procedures for book challenges.

    “That’s partly what is so concerning,” said Ruth A. Bourquin, senior and managing attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Police going into schools and searching for books is the sort of thing you hear about in communist China and Russia. What are we doing?”

    The Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee and Superintendent Peter Dillion have, in a statement sent to the school community Tuesday, apologized for how it handled the situation, stating "clearly and unequivocally" that it does not support book banning, and committed to making all of its students feel safe.

    "The recent incident at the middle school has challenged and impacted our community," according to the statement. "Faced with an unprecedented police investigation of what should be a purely educational issue, we tried our best to serve the interests of students, families, teachers, and staff. In hindsight, we would have approached that moment differently. We are sorry. We can do better to refine and support our existing policies. We are committed to supporting all our students, particularly vulnerable populations."

    The ACLU has requested that body camera footage and other records related to the complaint and the investigation, Bourquin said.

    It was an anonymous complaint that led Great Barrington Police to open a probe about whether parts of the book, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, could be considered obscene material or pornographic.

    The ACLU has requested that body camera footage and other records related to the complaint and the investigation, Bourquin said.

    It was an anonymous complaint that led Great Barrington Police to open a probe about whether parts of the book, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, could be considered obscene material or pornographic..........



     

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