Banning books in schools (1 Viewer)

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    Optimus Prime

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    Excellent article I thought deserved its own thread
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    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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    The wave of book bans sweeping the US, typically reserved for works of fiction deemed controversial, has hit textbooks used in public schools, marking the next step in Republicans’ war on education.

    The board of trustees for the Cypress Fairbanks independent school district in Houston voted 6-1 earlier this month to redact certain chapters in science textbooks, including those about vaccines, human growth, diversity, and climate change.

    The motion to remove the chapters was made by the board’s vice-president Natalie Blasingame and almost unanimously supported.


    Blasingame, who has served on the board since 2021, did not give a specific explanation for the decision, but said the subjects go beyond what the state requires to teach and creates “a perception that humans are bad”.

    Last year, the Republican-controlled state board approved textbooks for the schools’ science curriculums, rejecting several books on climate, so the local school district’s censorship of these textbooks is even more restrictive.

    Education experts say the move could have far-reaching consequences, prompting similar decisions to omit information in other subjects, and public school districts across the country.

    The board’s decision drew the ire of local parents and education groups.

    Brian Henry, a local parent and founder of the non-partisan group Cypress Families for Public Schools, said he was concerned about the precedent this decision sets.

    “Will trustees at the local school board level be able to just delete chapters about civil rights because they just mentioned the history of same-sex marriage?” Henry, 37, said. “It’s really kind of alarming what this could mean for ideological influence and control over what is taught in schools.”


    Henry describes Cypress, a sprawling suburb of Houston with a population of nearly 200,000, as an increasingly diverse community with a loud minority of political extremists.

    “A lot of Republicans in the Cy-Fair area, who are very conservative but are pro public-education, are having to now grapple with the fact that [the] governor, state representatives – they’re really not pro public–education,” he said. “And so people are struggling with how to reconcile that, because they don’t want to vote for Democrats.”

    Henry added this “level of oversight, micromanagement and interference” is “scary.”…….

    This sounds like the staging ground for the next evolutionists Vs. christians Monkey Trials 2.0.
     
    A book about book bans has been banned in a Florida school district.

    Ban This Book, a children’s book written by Alan Gratz, will no longer be available in the Indian River county school district since the school board voted to remove the book last month.

    Gratz’s book, which came out in 2017, follows fourth-grader Amy Anne Ollinger as she tries to check out her favorite book. Ollinger is told by the librarian she cannot, because it was banned after a classmate’s parent thought it was inappropriate.

    She then creates a secret banned-books library, entering into “an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read”, according to the book’s description on Gratz’s website.

    In a peculiar case of life imitating art, Jennifer Pippin, a parent in the coastal community, challenged the book.

    Pippin’s opposition is what prompted the school board to vote 3-2 in favor of removing it from shelves. The vote happened despite the district’s book-review committee vetting the work and deciding to keep it in schools.

    Indian River county school board members disagreed with how Gratz’s book referred to other works that had been taken out of school, and accused it of “teaching rebellion of school-board authority”, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

    Pippin is also the chair of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, a far-right organization that has been behind many of the book bans that have swept across the US in recent years.

    According to a 2023 PEN America report, 81% of school districts that banned books between July 2022 and June 2023 were within or adjoined a county with a local chapter of a group such as Moms for Liberty.

    Besides Pippin, two of the school board members who voted in favor of banning the book, Jacqueline Rosario and Gene Posca, had support from Moms for Liberty during their campaigns……

     
    Idaho librarian June Meissner was closing up for the day at the downtown Boise Public Library when a man approached her asking for help.

    As an information services librarian, answering patrons’questions is part of Meissner’s day-to-day work, and serving the community is one of her favorite parts of the job.

    But when the man got close enough, “he took a swing at me and tried to punch me in the head,” said Meissner, a transgender woman. “I blocked it and he started yelling slurs and suggesting that he was going to come back and kill me.”

    Worldwide Pride Month events are well underwayto celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and rights. But it is coming at a time when people who identify as LGBTQ+ say they are facing increasing difficulties at work, ranging from being repeatedly misgendered to physically assaulted.

    Gender nonconforming library workers in particular, like Meissner, are also grappling with growing calls for book bans across the U.S., with books about gender identity, sexual orientation and race topping the list of most criticized titles and making the attacks all the more personal.



    “When we see attacks on those books, we have to understand that those are attacks on those kinds of people as well,” said Emily Drabinski, who is the president of the American Library Association and is gay.

    “To have my identity weaponized against libraries and library workers, the people and institutions I care about the most, has made it a difficult and painful year.”

    The ALA said it documented the highest-ever number of titles targeted for censorship in 2023 in more than 20 years of tracking -- 4,240.

    That total surpassed 2022’s previous record by 65%, with Maia Kobabe’s coming-of-age story “Gender Queer” topping the list for most criticized library book for the third straight year.


    Lawmakers are increasingly considering lawsuits, fines, and even imprisonment for distributing books some regard as inappropriate, including in Meissner’s home state of Idaho.

    Lawmakers there passed legislation that empowers local prosecutors to bring charges against public and school libraries if they don’t keep “harmful” materials away from children.

    The new law, signed by Idaho Gov. Brad Little in April, will go into effect on July 1.……

     
    South Carolina has implemented one of the most restrictive book ban laws in the US, enabling mass censorship in school classrooms and libraries across the state.

    Drafted by Ellen Weaver, the superintendent of education and close ally of the far-right group Moms for Liberty, the law requires all reading material to be “age or developmentally appropriate”. The vague wording of the legislation – open to interpretation and deliberately inviting challenge – could see titles as classic as Romeo and Juliet completely wiped from school shelves.

    “All we’re going to have left is Lassie from here on out,” said Shanna Miles, an author and school librarian born and raised in South Carolina. “They’re not going to stop at one aspect of society they don’t like; they will keep on going. Now [that] they have a taste of power, this is never going to end.”


    South Carolina’s recent regulation is part of an alarmingly broader nationwide fight against literature exploring race, sexuality, or anything seemingly contentious or divisive. The severity of this particularly draconian law, however, sets it apart from what is happening in most other states.

    The broad-reaching policy took effect automatically on 25 June despite not being debated or voted upon by the state senate or house, as the process typically necessitates.

    It outlines that “age-appropriate” materials must not include descriptions or visual depictions of “sexual conduct”. Any parent with a child enrolled in a public K-12 school in the state can challenge up to five titles a month if they feel they violate these terms.

    When similar language was used in an Iowa bill passed in May 2023, an onslaught of book banning ensued. Classic titles, like Ulysses and Native Son,were removed from reading lists and libraries, marking a radical departure from the traditional literature taught in schools for decades.

    “South Carolinians are less free today than they were yesterday,” Jace Woodrum, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in the state, told the Guardian.……

     
    It started with a social media video: a school principal from a medium-sized Brazilian city lashed out against an award-winning novel, saying it was “disgusting” and disrespectful of “good manners”.

    The next day, the local department of education ordered all schools in nearby cities to remove the book from their libraries.

    In less than a week, three other states also bannedO Avesso da Pele, by Jeferson Tenório – published in the UK as The Dark Side of Skin – from their schools.


    The book ban in March, was the most high-profile in a series of such cases which have proliferated in Brazil in recent years.

    Works targeted for banning typically involve race, gender and the LGBTQ+ communities.

    Last week, O menino marrom (The Brown Kid), a children’s novel first published 40 years ago ago by one of the most celebrated Brazilian authors, Ziraldo Alves Pinto, was banned in Minas Gerais state. The week before, the same had happened in São Paulo with another book about female scientists.

    Although scattered through different states and cities, the cases have a common factor: there are usually politicians behind them, and in most cases, they support the former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

    “The bolsonarista strategy is one of hatred … of choosing a target to attack and creating the idea of an enemy,” said Tenório. “My book was the target then, just as others are now.”

    The Dark Side of Skin tells the story of a young Black man seeking to uncover his family’s history, marked by racism in Porto Alegre – the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, which has the highest proportion of white people.


    The book – which in 2021 won Brazil’s most prestigious literary award as best novel – reached the school after being included in a federal government reading incentive program. It was aimed at students over 15 years old.

    The passage described as “disgusting” by the school principal in Santa Cruz do Sul was a conversation between two teenagers praising each other sexually.

    But that specific passage is not representative of the work as a whole, said Tenório who argued that it was not the reason why it was banned.

    “It’s a book by a black author … that deals with racial issues and police brutality,” he said. “Brazil’s south is a very conservative and prejudiced region and this isn’t the kind of subject they want to discuss in the classroom.”

    The writer believes Brazil faces a “poorly finished copy of what’s happening in the US”.…….

    Sandra believes the recent years have seen the highest number of incidents since Brazil returned to democracy in the late 1980s. “Right-wing groups are trying to block any topic they consider harmful to what they call traditional values,” she said.

    Researcher Marcele Frossard, who studies attacks on education, believes that the cases are orchestrated. As an example, she cites a group called “Mães do Agro” (mothers of agribusiness) that put pressure on authorities to ban textbooks on climate change, alleging they “discriminate” against agribusiness.….

     
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    The Southern Poverty Law Center and another group have amended a federal lawsuit against a Georgia school district to include a transgender student and a grassroots youth organization, effectively becoming the “first case challenging anti-LGBTQ book bans” in the state.

    The move – done anonymously to protect the student – widens the case’s focus from how teachers are affected by censorship laws and policies in Georgia, to how those same policies affect children.

    Harry Chiu, with the Southern Education Foundation and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, told the Guardian he believes the case could “set a precedent in Georgia and across the region that book bans which discriminate against LGBTQ students and educators who teach age-appropriate lessons are unconstitutional”.


    Katherine Rinderle, an elementary school teacher of “gifted and talented” students, was fired in August after reading My Shadow is Purple to her students. The complaint was previously lodged on her behalf, as well as the Georgia Association of Educators and another teacher – and against the school district and individual employees. Defendants filed a motion in April to dismiss the initial complaint. Now, the amended lawsuit adds the student – called “AA” – and the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, a grassroots youth group, as plaintiffs. The school district and other defendants have until 29 July to respond.

    “It’s vital that the case was amended, because … it documents the real harms students have experienced as a result of these policies,” said Melody Oliphant, executive director of the youth coalition.

    The amended lawsuit offers detailed accounts of how everything from going to the bathroom to participating in chorus became fraught with stress for the student, as Rinderle, the one teacher who supported her, was first suspended for reading the book written by an Australian author, and eventually fired.

    The complaint alleges that the Cobb county school district “not only causes gender nonconforming students and gender nonconforming families emotional harm by forcing students to learn in unwelcoming and unsupportive environments, it also inflicts stress, terror, and heartbreak on entire families”.

    The district responded to a request for an interview by saying: “While we have no comment on ongoing litigation, we are proud to be a district focused on Georgia standards and what children need to know and do.”

    Rinderle bought My Shadow is Purple at a Scholastic Book Fair last spring – a picture book Scholastic recommends for five- to eight-year-olds. The teacher of more than a decade chose the title “because of its anti-bullying message”, according to the complaint. Her class voted on books for a morning “read-aloud” session and nine of 15 students chose the 32-page book.


    Two days after the reading session, one parent and then another emailed complaints to the school’s principal. The second called “anything in the genre of ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘queer’ […] divisive”. The principal forwarded the emails to the school district’s central office. Within five days, on 13 March, Rinderle was suspended. By August, she was fired.……

     
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