This week, PEN America released a report on the current state of book bans in the USA. The report discusses the 50+ “parents’ rights” groups operating across the country, both on the national and local levels, and how these groups are responsible or connected to at least half of the book bans that have taken place since July 2021. But who are these groups? Where are they located?
PEN’s report lays out and links to several stories about various groups, including this box exploring some of the nationally-organized groups.
Read the report, particularly this section, to get a sense of what ideas these groups are formed around. For the most part, it’s not just book bans. It’s the broader issue of “parental rights,” which became a movement in 2020 with parents demanding that schools “reopen” during the pandemic (the language here matters, as schools were open but operating virtually). The movement shifted in 2021 to demand that their children be unmasked in schools, and thereafter/simultaneously, to demanding oversight and say in curriculum and materials made available to students in schools.
Today In Books Newsletter
Sign up to Today In Books to receive daily news and miscellany from the world of books.
Thank you for signing up! Keep an eye on your inbox.
The database linked here is not comprehensive, but represents a look at the groups who have been connected with or directly linked to book bans or challenges (or other curriculum changes under the guise of “parental rights”). Some are more active than others, and some have changed their names, consolidated, or otherwise reworked their structures even since this list was complied. Some are parent groups and others are political action groups. Many of the groups are linked to either their Facebook or website presence. Not all states are represented, which does not mean there are not groups in those states. There are not national groups or their affiliated chapters included; PEN outlines those nicely above, and the embedded Tweet above shows, in gold, where the biggest organization currently has active chapters.
This is incomplete by nature, but if you know of others operating locally to you and want to help flesh out this resource, feel free to drop the name, web presence (if applicable), and state of operation in this document.
Book Censorship News: September 23, 2022
- The city of Keller, Texas, made the Keller Public Library remove a social media post about banned books for Banned Books Week. At what point is all of this a parody of itself?
- In San Clarita Valley, California, “David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment for the William S. Hart Union High School District, said this was not a book ban — only that the committee decided not to carry the book in the library.” Deciding to take a book out of the library is a book ban, and the book is This Book is Gay. But keep bending over backwards to say it’s not a book ban.
- Laura Blackwell, chair of the board of Cabarrus County schools (NC), seems never to have walked a school hallway if Looking For Alaska bothers her so much.
- Knox County schools (ME) are re-evaluating Gender Queer after continued complaints.
- Meanwhile in Bonny Eagle High School, the decision on whether to remove Gender Queer was delayed two weeks.
- In Barrington High School (IL), both Flamer and This Book Is Gay will remain on shelves.
- A frequent flier at the Crystal Lake, Illinois, District 155 is wasting taxpayer money on FOIA requests over individual books in the library (something she can look up herself). This time it’s for Looking For Alaska. This same individual asked last month for the sexualities of staff members in a FOIA…
- Book banners in Wentzville, Missouri, were calling the police, who showed up to the school library twice. For the “we don’t coparent with the government” crowd, they sure love begging the government to do their parenting.
- “Washingtonville Central School District Superintendent Larry Washington issued a statement to News 12 Thursday, saying due to parent concerns, the book has been removed from the high school’s general library shelves to behind the librarian’s desk, where the book is available to students upon request.” Moving the book (it’s Gender Queer) so that a student has to talk to someone to borrow it doesn’t actually do the thing you think it does. This is Washingtonville, New York, in the Hudson Valley.
- “Two parents have taken the lead in trying to take the book out of school circulation. Bud Campbell, father of four children in the district, said he found out about the book in August from a Facebook group. Though he hasn’t read the full novel, he didn’t approve of the excerpts he had read. Campbell hopes to get it banned from the curriculum and library. ” Sounds about par for the course. The book is Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but this guy also got The Handmaid’s Tale pulled. This is Gardner Edgerton School District, in Kansas.
- The Huntsville Public Library (TX) board meeting was filled with people talking about the removal of the Pride display at the library….both for good and not good.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will go to vote in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, schools next month.
- Buried in this story about parents rallying for a “Parents Rights” bill in Pennsylvania is the woman who has filed a federal lawsuit over her local school having a few books she doesn’t like on shelves.
- “James Cutshall, one of the parents, claimed the TEDx Talk “How Embracing Tolerance has Failed Us” by Dr. Kristen Donnelly and the book “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely promoted “anti-police … anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-nuclear family and anti-white male” agendas.” This is in Homer Center School District (PA).
- I am paywalled, but the Springfield schools (MO) rejected two book ban proposals this week.
- And thanks to the new state law in Missouri, here’s a look at some of the districts and the numbers of books they’ve banned.
- Greenville County republicans (SC) want to ban LGBTQ+ books in the children’s section of the public library.
- “A lawsuit against the Sarasota County School Board [FL] alleging sexually explicit material in books was dismissed last month when a judge ruled the plaintiff had no legal basis. Then, the plaintiff filed legal papers that took aim at the judge herself.” This story is a ride, that’s for sure.
- East Central Regional Library (MN) will not remove It’s Perfectly Normal from shelves.
- Victoria Public Library (TX) will not remove the books that have been challenged.
- …But also, the Victoria Public Library (TX) board adopted a new policy that will allow them to review whether books should be added or removed to the collection based on community input.
- Nixa School Board (MO) made a host of changes related to public comment and book challenges as part of their consent agenda and now, parents who are against book bans — of which Nixa has been taking part — are unhappy.
- Every time a school gets a FOIA request for “all of the books in a library,” which can be accessed via a library catalog (yes, even in schools), they should be charged for the waste of time and energy of it. This one happened in Bowling Green, Missouri.
- “Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon said Tuesday she would support a statewide ban on ‘pornographic’ books in schools.” This really is their platform right now.
- Let’s Talk About It is being challenged in Lorain County Public Libraries (OH).
- “In an email to supporters, Take Action Kamloops called the SD73 board of education ‘public enemy number 1’ and described Rowse as ‘a woman who refused to stand idly by and watch them mask her children, vax her children, she did not and will not stand for the perverted sexual debauchery that the education system has become.’” This is in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Apparently Satan created “other genders,” too.
- Check out the books that would fail to meet standards under Loudoun County (VA)’s new “sexually explicit materials” policy.
- Greeley-Evans School District (CO) usually posts their board meetings online but withheld the most recent one because of parents performing The Bluest Eye and Gender Queer. The video of their challenge is available now, though, and the district is considering changes to public comment.
- “Under a new policy, Belton Independent School District [TX] parents can now question and lead the district to investigate books they find questionable or inappropriate.” Love that parents continue to have more rights to remove books than students have rights to access them.
- Buried in this story out of Wyoming — which is a must-read, as it really outlines the ways in which certain political affiliations are pushing for public money to be spent on agenda-laden, right-wing educational systems — is that a parent complained about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and it was pulled from classrooms three days later.
- “The Livingston Parish Library Board of Control will maintain its current policies for challenging books despite a letter from the parish president asking them to move certain materials out of the children’s section.” This is a small victory for the rights of anyone to access age-appropriate material out of Louisiana. It means that LGBTQ+ books will not be restricted.
- A look at the efforts of those pushing back against book banning in Missouri.
- Park City School District (UT) is reviewing the constitutionality of the new state mandate on having a policy that opens the doors to book banning.
- “Parents group Moms for Liberty says it has ‘paused’ all 17 challenges to books it considers too sexually explicit or sexually violent to be on the shelves of Fauquier County school libraries while the school division fixes ‘the problems in their book selection and contestation processes.’” This is in Virginia.
- In Santa Barbara, California, the challenge against Gender Queer in a high school library is helping right-wing candidates campaign.
- “‘Every single person pushing this sex ed curriculum inclusive of subject matter is a sexual predator in my book and should be in jail,’ one parent said to applause during a school board meeting […] The new curriculum also includes subjects like mental health, peer pressure and bullying.” This is the classic anti-Social Emotional Learning argument, paired neatly with the anti-Comprehensive Sexuality Education argument (yes, “Sexuality,” not Sexual). This curriculum was nixed in Garwood, New Jersey.
- Valley City Barnes County Public Library Board (North Dakota) is dealing with a challenge of Let’s Talk About It.
This week, at least two major metropolitan public library systems (Denver and Fort Worth) have had credible threats against them, leading to their closure. While neither has shared the reasons behind them, that this happened during Banned Books Week is extremely concerning.
I was also on the City Cast Chicago podcast talking about banned books, about the ways censorship is happening in Illinois, and why school board elections are crucial. You can tune in here.
- A Banned Books Week Action List: Book Censorship News, September 16, 2022
- How to Run for School Board: Book Censorship News, September 9, 2022
- How To Create A Good Banned Books Display: Book Censorship News, September 2, 2022
- States That Have Enacted Book Ban Laws: Book Censorship News, August 26, 2022
- Defending the Right to Read: Book Censorship News, August 19, 2022
- How To Find and Develop a Local Anti-Censorship Group: Book Censorship News, August 12, 2022
- A Template for Talking with School and Library Boards About Book Bans: Book Censorship News, August 5, 2022
- The School Board Project, Round Two: Book Censorship News, July 29, 2022
- What Would Help You Fight Book Bans?: Book Censorship News, July 22, 2022