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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    WASHINGTON – They signed in for the online “Troublemaker Training’’ from places like Colorado, Michigan, New York and Tennessee. More than 70 attendees got tips on talking points they could use in the fight against book bans in their communities.

    “Book banning… seems to be not going away,’’ Julie Womack, organizing director for Red, Wine & Blue, said as she kicked off the hourlong training in mid-December. “It continues to spread so it’s very likely to be something that will happen in your school district.”

    The session was one of several hosted by Red, Wine & Blue, a grassroots group mobilizing suburban women, many of them liberal-leaning, as part of its campaign to push back against the rise of book bans. Across the country, national and local groups have launched projects to counter efforts to ban or restrict books, many written by authors of color or focused on issues like racism, gender identity and sexuality.

    These parents, civil rights activists and teacher advocates started bookmobiles offering banned books, created toolkits to equip activists, hosted online book clubs and sponsored banned book giveaways. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., introduced legislation to counter the bans.

    The efforts come as more states and local jurisdictions, including school boards, adopt measures to ban or restrict what books teachers can use and librarians can put on shelves.

    Supporters of such efforts said they help protect people, particularly young readers, from harmful teachings and that parents should have more say in what their children are taught. Opponents argue the bans are part of a culture war that demands action.

    “Banned books are just the tip of the iceberg,’’ said Deborah Menkart, executive director of Teaching for Change, an advocacy group. “What's being banned or what's being censored is much wider than that.”.............


     
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee has become ground zero for book banning and challenges at local schools. It has even been found on numerous lists of states with the most book bans.

    “You have a very long and growing list of books that your constituents have shown you that you have explicit sexual content, drug use, child rape, and more,” said Ingrid Holmes, a Mt. Juliet resident in favor of book removal.

    Ingrid is one of the many voices who have spoken before the Wilson County School Board over hours of debate regarding which books should be removed from school libraries.

    Right now, parents in Tennessee can take book challenges to their school board if they think a book is inappropriate for the age of students. In places like Wilson County, that has led to hours and hours of debates.

    If the new bill filed in Tennessee’s House passes, it would allow parents to sue if they disagree with a school board’s decision on a book.

    “If it does go forward, it is going to drastically affect the LEAs; lawyers are not cheap, and to have to defend these lawsuits, even if there is no merit to it, you have to answer the mail,” Rep. Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville) said.

    McKenzie said the controversies surrounding education in our state can also lead to fewer people becoming teachers...................


     
    Yes, this is exactly where the unfree state of FL is now. You can’t have dictionaries in the schools.


     
    PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. (AP) — Voters decided to remove a small-town Nebraska school member from office after she tried to have dozens of books pulled from school libraries.

    More than 1,600 Plattsmouth voters supported recalling Terri Cunningham-Swanson in a mail-in election this week. The Omaha World-Herald reported that about 1,000 people voted to keep her on the board she joined a year ago.

    Cunningham-Swanson led an effort to have about 50 books removed from school libraries because of concerns about sexual content and adult themes in them. Some students protested and one librarian resigned after the books were pulled from library shelves while they were being reviewed.

    Ultimately, only one book — “Triangles” by Ellen Hopkins that focuses on three women, including one whose marriage falls apart after she engages in extramarital sex — was pulled from the shelves. Eleven other books were put in a restricted section that students need parent permission to check books out from. More than 30 other books were kept on general library shelves.

    When the book review was discussed at a fall meeting, other board members pointed out that the books that were challenged were rarely checked out in the Plattsmouth district, which is about 20 miles south of Omaha.............

     
    ENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A lawsuit can move forward against a Florida Panhandle school district over its removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities from library shelves, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

    U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell II, based in Pensacola, ruled that the writers’ group PEN America, publisher Penguin Random House, banned authors and parents have standing to pursue their claims under the First Amendment's free speech protections, while denying a claim under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

    "We are gratified that the Judge recognized that books cannot be removed from school library shelves simply because of the views they espouse, and are looking forward to moving forward with this case to protect the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs,” attorney Lynn Oberlander said in a statement.

    The federal lawsuit alleges the Escambia County School District and its School Board are violating the First Amendment through the removal of 10 books.

    PEN America, which has tracked school book bans, advocates for literary freedoms and has a membership of 7,500 writing professionals, including authors whose books have been removed or restricted in the school district. Penguin Random House, a massive publisher, has published books that have been removed or restricted by the district.

    The lawsuit says the removals stem from objections from one language arts teacher in the county, and in each case the school board voted to remove the books despite recommendations from a district review committee that deemed them educationally suitable...........

     
    More than 1,500 books have been temporarily removed from a Florida school district this week, including two written by former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.

    The Florida Freedom to Read Project recently obtained a list of books that have been temporarily removed from libraries in the Escambia County Public School District, which included encyclopedias, The Guinness Book of World Records and two books from conservative pundit O'Reilly: Killing Jesus: A History, and Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency.
    According to Pen America, the list also contains titles from David Baldacci, Stephen King, John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks.

    In a statement to Newsweek, Escambia County Public Schools Superintendent Keith Leonard said: "I want to clarify that our district has not imposed a 'ban' on over 1600 books. Additionally, the dictionary has not been banned in our district. Any claims suggesting otherwise are inaccurate and should be disregarded."..........
     
    Like many public libraries across the country, the main branch of the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library in Jonesboro, Arkansas, set up a variety of displays for Pride Month in June 2021. There were showcases of books by LGBTQ+ authors, an exhibit that explained the different community flags and a section of kids books featuring LGBTQ+ characters.

    According to its staff and supporters, the library hadn’t had any obvious issues celebrating Pride prior to 2021. But that month spurred community backlash that contributed to the county voting the following year to cut library funding in half.

    More than a year after the vote, the cuts have finally gone into effect, and the results are dire. The library and its other branches (there are eight, including the main branch) are now forced to operate with reduced hours and smaller staffs and have had to cut services that community members previously relied on.

    “The Pride display in June 2021 was a huge catalyst and the main reason why the library was defunded,” Dean MacDonald, a supporter and advocate for the CCJPL, told HuffPost.

    Conservatives across the country began targeting public libraries during the backlash to the sweeping social justice movements that took hold in 2020 in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Using the guise of “parental rights,” conservatives whipped up a moral panic: first about children learning about the United States’ racist past and then about kids learning about LGBTQ+ rights, falsely asserting that members of the LGBTQ+ community were preying on children or that books about gay or trans people should be treated like pornography.

    “When the children’s [Pride] display went up, that’s when it really hit the fan,” said Vanessa Adams, the director of the CCJPL, who was previously the library director in another Arkansas county.
    David Eckert, who was the library director in the summer of 2021, was surprised when the complaints started rolling in. He told KAIT-TV in Jonesboro that he initially got a lot of positive feedback — close to 30 support emails — about the Pride display, compared with the three formal complaints he received. But eventually that changed.
    “It had actually been up for three weeks before I heard a complaint,” Eckert told the station’s news team at the time. “I’m not exactly sure why there was a problem this year, especially because before I started working here, we’ve always put this type of material out every June.” (Eckert resigned in November 2021 amid controversy over library policies.)
    I dream of a world where this argument that we are having today will make us laugh at ourselves.A resident supporting the library at a board meeting
    At a three-hour library board meeting in August 2021, residents argued over a proposal to allow the board to approve of displays and guest speakers. The vote failed to pass, with board Vice President Mike Johnson saying that librarians should be trusted to make such decisions.

    But another library proposal quickly divided the area: Board member Amanda Escue went on to suggest a new policy that would require the board to approve “sensitive materials” before the library could make a purchase.

    Many residents spoke out against the proposal.

    “I dream of a world where this argument that we are having today will make us laugh at ourselves and dismiss it as insanity,” one resident said at a September 2021 board meeting, according to KAIT.

    Others turned to mistruths about LGBTQ+ materials to support it. “The topic is not about religion, the topic is not about your sexual orientation, the topic is why do the children, the young children, need to see the pornographic explicit material,” one resident said during the public comment section of a library board meeting, KAIT reported in a separate story.

    Escue resigned from her position weeks before the board could vote on her proposal about “sensitive material,” citing her family’s move to Randolph County, Arkansas, as the reason, according to The Jonesboro Sun.

    The board voted 4 to 2 not to adopt the proposal.

    Then, at the end of September 2022, just weeks before the election, a group called Citizens Taxed Enough announced it had gathered enough signatures to put decreased funding for the library on the ballot. It framed the issue as one of tax relief for residents, but Citizens Taxed Enough said on social media that the group had looked into the library’s finances because staff refused to remove or move books it didn’t approve of. Recently, Citizens Taxed Enough insinuated itself into a Facebook post to say that the library was a place where children could access pornography.

    HuffPost reviewed Facebook posts identified as belonging to members of the Northeast Arkansas Tea Party, a right-wing group supporting the ballot measure to cut the library’s funding in half. In the posts, made in the lead-up to the 2022 election, the members falsely claimed that library staff were providing sexually explicit material and abusing children, and they criticized a Drag Queen Storytime event as predatory toward children.
    It really blindsided us because we hadn’t heard any rumors that they were going to put it on the ballot.Vanessa Adams, director of CCJPL
    Library supporters and patrons in Craighead County, Arkansas, which is home to more than 100,000 people (the majority of whom live in Jonesboro), said they were taken aback when defunding the library ended up on the ballot in November 2022.
    “It really blindsided us because we hadn’t heard any rumors that they were going to put it on the ballot,” Adams said about the measure, leaving support groups like Citizens Defending the Craighead County Library little time to get the word out about voting.

    The ballot measure to cut library funding passed by 48 votes.............

     
    Florida GOP waking up (lol) to the fact they went way too far.





    However, this is a mere bandaid and doesn’t really solve anything. It would be easy to get multiple people to each do five books, IMO, or just have the same few people use other names.
     
    people should have to write a detailed and specific explanation of why a book should be challenged/pulled for each instance in the book

    A general "deviant behavior" or "divisive content" won't cut it

    And all challenges and explanations should be available to the public, so your neighbors can see why you think the Rosa Parks story should be banned
     
    Ryan Walters, the top school official in Oklahoma, has appointed an inflammatory right-wing activist known for targeting LGBTQ+ teachers to the library media advisory committee at the state Department of Education.

    Chaya Raichik runs “Libs of TikTok,” a popular account on X (formerly Twitter) where she posts videos about LGBTQ+ educators, often smearing them as “groomers” or “indoctrinators.”

    Walters claimed that Raichik, who lives in California, is a valuable asset to Oklahoma schools.

    “Chaya is on the front lines showing the world exactly what the radical left is all about — lowering standards, porn in schools, and pushing woke indoctrination on our kids,” Walters, the state superintendent of schools, said in a press release Tuesday. “Because of her work, families across the country know just what is going on in schools around the country.”

    “Her unique perspective is invaluable as part of my plan to make Oklahoma schools safer for kids and friendly to parents,” he continued. “Chaya has a much-needed and powerful voice as well as a tremendous platform that will benefit Oklahoma students and their families.”

    The war on books is a part of the right’s larger fight against public schools, and its efforts to keep libraries from providing books to children and students that feature LGBTQ+ themes and progressive concepts. In an attempt to remove these books from schools, conservatives have likened them to pornography and other topics unsuitable for children.

    Both Raichik and Walters are well-versed in the conservative culture wars. Raichik began posting videos in 2021 where she criticized educators and claimed they were indoctrinating children, and Walters has been smearing Oklahoma teachers and making false claims about sexually explicit materials in schools since his days as Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education.

    Raichik does not appear to have any experience in schools or government, but her platform has already led to bomb threats in Oklahoma schools.

    In August, Raichik posted a video to X of a librarian at the Union School District, in suburban Tulsa, making light of the conservative moral panic that teachers are pushing a “woke agenda.”

    Walters retweeted the video, saying: “Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it.” According to NBC, the school district began receiving bomb threats the same day......



     
    Ryan Walters, the top school official in Oklahoma, has appointed an inflammatory right-wing activist known for targeting LGBTQ+ teachers to the library media advisory committee at the state Department of Education.

    Chaya Raichik runs “Libs of TikTok,” a popular account on X (formerly Twitter) where she posts videos about LGBTQ+ educators, often smearing them as “groomers” or “indoctrinators.”

    Walters claimed that Raichik, who lives in California, is a valuable asset to Oklahoma schools.

    “Chaya is on the front lines showing the world exactly what the radical left is all about — lowering standards, porn in schools, and pushing woke indoctrination on our kids,” Walters, the state superintendent of schools, said in a press release Tuesday. “Because of her work, families across the country know just what is going on in schools around the country.”

    “Her unique perspective is invaluable as part of my plan to make Oklahoma schools safer for kids and friendly to parents,” he continued. “Chaya has a much-needed and powerful voice as well as a tremendous platform that will benefit Oklahoma students and their families.”

    The war on books is a part of the right’s larger fight against public schools, and its efforts to keep libraries from providing books to children and students that feature LGBTQ+ themes and progressive concepts. In an attempt to remove these books from schools, conservatives have likened them to pornography and other topics unsuitable for children.

    Both Raichik and Walters are well-versed in the conservative culture wars. Raichik began posting videos in 2021 where she criticized educators and claimed they were indoctrinating children, and Walters has been smearing Oklahoma teachers and making false claims about sexually explicit materials in schools since his days as Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education.

    Raichik does not appear to have any experience in schools or government, but her platform has already led to bomb threats in Oklahoma schools.

    In August, Raichik posted a video to X of a librarian at the Union School District, in suburban Tulsa, making light of the conservative moral panic that teachers are pushing a “woke agenda.”

    Walters retweeted the video, saying: “Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it.” According to NBC, the school district began receiving bomb threats the same day......




    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's new Republican superintendent of public schools is facing bipartisan criticism for appointing a right-wing social media influencer from New York to a state library advisory committee.........

    Rep. Mickey Dollens, an Oklahoma City Democrat and former public school teacher, said Raichik's appointment also seems to violate the department's own rules for advisory committees, which require members to be “representative of the people to be served.”

    “Is she a librarian? No. Does she have kids in Oklahoma schools? No. Does she even live in Oklahoma? No,” Dollens said. “How is this ‘representative of the people to be served?’”

    The Library Media Advisory Committee is a board of volunteers appointed by Walters that makes recommendations on books and materials available in school libraries.

    Walters said Wednesday that opponents, including “union leftists," are scared that Raichik is on his team.

    “They know we will continue to expose their agenda to indoctrinate our kids with a woke agenda and push pornographic material into the classroom,” he said in a statement. “Oklahoma continues to lead the nation on crushing Joe Biden's war on our kids.”............

     
    Ryan Walters, the top school official in Oklahoma, has appointed an inflammatory right-wing activist known for targeting LGBTQ+ teachers to the library media advisory committee at the state Department of Education.

    Chaya Raichik runs “Libs of TikTok,” a popular account on X (formerly Twitter) where she posts videos about LGBTQ+ educators, often smearing them as “groomers” or “indoctrinators.”

    Walters claimed that Raichik, who lives in California, is a valuable asset to Oklahoma schools.

    “Chaya is on the front lines showing the world exactly what the radical left is all about — lowering standards, porn in schools, and pushing woke indoctrination on our kids,” Walters, the state superintendent of schools, said in a press release Tuesday. “Because of her work, families across the country know just what is going on in schools around the country.”

    “Her unique perspective is invaluable as part of my plan to make Oklahoma schools safer for kids and friendly to parents,” he continued. “Chaya has a much-needed and powerful voice as well as a tremendous platform that will benefit Oklahoma students and their families.”

    The war on books is a part of the right’s larger fight against public schools, and its efforts to keep libraries from providing books to children and students that feature LGBTQ+ themes and progressive concepts. In an attempt to remove these books from schools, conservatives have likened them to pornography and other topics unsuitable for children.

    Both Raichik and Walters are well-versed in the conservative culture wars. Raichik began posting videos in 2021 where she criticized educators and claimed they were indoctrinating children, and Walters has been smearing Oklahoma teachers and making false claims about sexually explicit materials in schools since his days as Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education.

    Raichik does not appear to have any experience in schools or government, but her platform has already led to bomb threats in Oklahoma schools.

    In August, Raichik posted a video to X of a librarian at the Union School District, in suburban Tulsa, making light of the conservative moral panic that teachers are pushing a “woke agenda.”

    Walters retweeted the video, saying: “Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it.” According to NBC, the school district began receiving bomb threats the same day......




    yea, nothing the Right hates more than being held accontable for their hate, therefore it must be WOKE!!!!!
     
    This could go in a number of threads
    ========================

    No two men should have this much power.

    July 1, 2023, wasn't a typical day—it was the day the Murfreesboro, Tennessee City Ordinance 23-0-22, better known as the "Decency Ordinance," was set to go into effect.

    This ordinance gave Police Chief Michael Bowen and City Manager Craig Tindall the power to penalize anyone, anywhere in public, for anything they deemed indecent.

    When questioned on what would qualify as indecent during public discussions before Murfreesboro City Council voted to pass the ordinance, the response was: I can tell you when I see it.

    I believe that this was an absurd and dangerous attempt to criminalize being LGBTQ in our town, a discriminatory effort that coincided with a similar attempt to erase Murfreesboro's LGBTQ citizens and their stories at the Rutherford County Library System (RCLS).

    Fortunately, with the bad came some good—a community ready to defend and protect everyone's rights to be themselves and be welcome.

    I quickly signed a petition against censorship on Facebook created by Matt and Tiffany Fee, two concerned Rutherford County residents, also instrumental in the formation of The Rutherford County Library Alliance (RCLA) Facebook group.

    I became an active member and now serve as vice president. We started preparing to appear at the August 28 library board meeting where the board of directors would decide the fate of six books one library patron had challenged.

    It was standing room only. What I witnessed that day was disturbing: Board members laughing as they were unable to correctly say "LGBTQ+," cherry-picking sentences from some of the targeted books, and taking them out of context.

    They also showed a lack of understanding of how the Miller Test works, the longstanding historic legal test for determining whether expression constitutes obscenity. They tried to gaslight, unconvincingly, that it was "just a coincidence that all the books were LGBTQ+."

    Most horrifyingly of all, a board member demanded from library staff the name of the person responsible for allowing the books to be on the shelves in what felt to me like an attempt to intimidate.

    After that meeting, I knew we needed to fight. Librarians were under intimidating pressure from their own board while the local government was censoring our community's access to information—I believe in violation of the constitution.

    To say I was shocked and frustrated would be an understatement. I could not understand how this could be happening in the United States of America.

    Tiffany and I started working together in our fight against this unconstitutional move against our community's library. We signed up to speak at library board meetings.

    The board devised an opt-out graduated library card system. This denies anyone under the age of 18 the right to access any information not in their assigned area—youth and children's sections—including non-fiction and reference materials for school or other educational needs unless their parents physically come into the library to fill out a form.

    I believe the board's system disregards the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom to access information. Multiple Supreme Court cases have dealt with this issue and reaffirmed that it is unconstitutional even to create barriers, let alone restrict access to information, even temporarily.

    We continued to spread the word to anyone and everyone who would listen. Then came November.

    The Rutherford County Steering Committee decided they wanted someone to go through every word, every picture, every page, every book, every piece of media in our public library's system to look for anything that could be deemed "obscene" and have that item removed—or the county would pull the library's funding.

    The Steering Committee also wanted a guarantee that no "objectionable book" would ever be added to the collection in the future. The committee gave the library 60 days to return with a plan on how it would "police" itself—a thinly veiled threat, all in the name of "following the law."

    I felt like I was living in the Twilight Zone. Why was no one saying anything? Why were they trying to build on or copy the Murfreesboro City Decency Ordinance when the city is already wasting taxpayer money defending it in a court case they're guaranteed to lose?

    I raised my hand early in the Steering Committee meeting when the chair asked if there were any questions. I never expected to be recognized or have the opportunity to ask a question, but I found focusing on keeping my hand raised helped control my frustration.

    To my shock, the chair recognized me and offered me three minutes to speak. I flat out asked them: "When in the history of the world have the people banning books been the good guys?"...........

     
    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.
    Can you link us to the books you've written? I am kind of curious.
     

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