It’s a new week, full of both new book challenges — against the same books you’re likely familiar with as favorites among the anti–cancel culture cancelers — as well as some good and not-so-good updates on previously reported stories. This week comes with an interesting means of pulling a book from school shelves while also trying to pretend that it didn’t happen at all.
As always, even if you aren’t a member of these communities, you can do something in support of intellectual freedom. This toolkit to how to fight book bans and challenges will give you ideas and actionable steps for ensuring all readers have access to the materials they deserve. The easiest step, especially as you read these stories, is to open up a materials request form at your library and request the titles mentioned here, if they’re not already in the library’s collection. It seems small, but this acknowledges that there’s an interest in these titles and puts them on the shelves.
New Kent, Virginia, Pulls Book But Media Refuses to Name It
The New Kent Middle School pulled a book from library shelves following the school board meeting Monday night. The decision came after a parent complained about the book on Facebook, got some attention for it, and then brought a collection of supporters of pulling the book to the board meeting and made it happen.
The two most interesting parts of this story are that the decision came immediately after the school board applauded themselves for their work on Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month celebrations over the previous month and the local newspaper choosing not to name the book pulled.
From NKCC News:
White spoke about how the incident began, encountering the reading after her child received it as part of reading for National Hispanic American Heritage Month that was being promoted. White took the issue to social media where she shared her experience after learning about the book, questioning why it was in school libraries.
“Our kids’ innocence is being taken away from them earlier and earlier,” she said during the public comment period. “They are already being exposed to a lot of things through television and social media.”
The book, which remained unnamed to ensure no other student could get to it, contained material that included abuse and child exploitation.
The book was named at the board meeting, which can be viewed in full on the school district’s YouTube channel. The book is The Poet X by Afro-Latina author Elizabeth Acevedo, a multi-award winning title.
In addition to that book being pulled due to a parental complaint, another parent showed up at the meeting to complain about Panic by Sharon Draper, which, as of this writing, has not been pulled. The wildest part of that parent’s complaint was the acknowledgement that the book was good but uncomfortable, and therefore probably not appropriate for students.
“After my post was shared, I have had parents tell me that they are reading books their children are checking out before they can read them,” White added. “One parent told me that she read a book that was about a teenager being sexually exploited and abused. While she said it was a good book, she also believed it was inappropriate for a child that is 12 to 13 years old.”
That book was also not named in the article.
White Parent Mad About “Angry White Faces,” Hatchet, and Other Curriculum Titles in Floyd County, Kentucky; Curriculum Killed
It was “angry white faces” as a description in a biography of Ruby Bridges for young readers that set a parent off on a rant during a recent Floyd County, Kentucky, school board meeting. The meeting, called to discuss the “Wit and Wisdom” curriculum the school adapted for English classes last spring, elected to kill the $600,000 program because of so-called “Critical Race Theory” included.
From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Tonia Fugate, a parent of a seventh-grader at Adams Middle School and fifth-grader at Prestonsburg Elementary School, pushed to have the curriculum removed.
Fugate learned one of the stories was about a distressed female student staying after school alone with a male teacher, which she saw as grooming. Other content Fugate said she had concerns about included “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, which includes a character with suicidal ideation after he learns his mother is having an extramarital affair, and “Separate is Never Equal” by Duncan Tonatiuh, which depicts Mexican kids in cages.
She also expressed concerns about the phrases “angry white faces” and “injustice delivered by the white people” in “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles. It is about the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South. “I was concerned and shocked,” Fugate said. “I thought it was highly inappropriate for kids this age.”
This current cancelation brigade has fallen for the phrase “robbed of innocence,” as seen throughout these stories. But it’s interesting how those parents and children are white, of course, and they don’t acknowledge that people of color never have had the opportunity to be innocent.
The school will return to their previous curriculum.
Cass County Missouri Library Will NOT Pull It’s Perfectly Normal
A favorite among censors this year is It’s Perfectly Normal, as reported back in August. In a spot of good news, though, parental complaints in Cass County, Missouri, will be little more than complaints, as the library will not be pulling the book from shelves.
The author’s website says the book started as a way to tell children about HIV and AIDS. Currently the library is opting to keep the book in circulation.
New Kid Returns to Katy ISD Bookshelves in Texas
The good news on book challenges is sandwiched among the less-good, but that doesn’t make it less worthy of highlighting — and, in fact, it’s a reminder that highlighting these stories is precisely why and how these books return or remain on shelves.
In Katy Independent School District, which saw Jerry Craft’s book New Kid and subsequent school visits canceled by the voices of a few outlying parents, the book has been returned to shelves.
From KTRH News Radio:
The district’s review committee read the book after allegations surfaced that it taught Critical Race Theory and Marxism.
The committee determined the book doesn’t contain any offensive or objectionable material.
The book is back in libraries.
The buzzword mafia didn’t win this one. May it serve as a place for other schools and libraries facing similar challenges to look toward as doing the right thing for intellectual freedom.
Note that the headline from this short report called the book “banned,” but it was never banned. It’s vital we understand this — it was challenged and pulled for review, following the guidelines, policies, and procedures as outlined by the school. It met the criteria for inclusion and was returned.
A book being banned means it was never returned or was pulled without going through the process. This distinction is important and should be especially important for those defending intellectual freedom to understand. No book was banned here. It was challenged. And now, thanks to progressing through the appropriate procedures, it was returned to shelves.
Leave Campbell County, Wyoming, Alone
So many books were challenged in Campbell County, Wyoming, and done so in a fashion to overwhelm local library staff, that now the county board is begging people to stop commenting on the issue at meetings.
From Cowboy State Daily:
The statement said now that the challenges of those books have been properly filed with the library, the library must be given time to process the challenges.
“The library is engaged in its book challenge process and although some may be displeased with the length of time required in completing this process, this process must be allowed to proceed to completion,” the statement said.
The library staff is currently working through about 40 challenges to books that residents consider obscene, according to County 17.
Though the process is proceeding according to policy — even though librarians were being threatened with legal action — county citizens, alongside former Wyoming state Representative Scott Clem, believe that now the board is revoking their right to discuss the issue.
The commissioners’ decision was roundly criticized by Rep. Scott Clem who said the move amounted to censoring Campbell County residents.
“Looks like the county commission is trying to silence your right to free speech. Whether you agree with the library issue or not, to try and put a gag order on the public is something we should all stand against,” Clem wrote on social media. “What’s next? Are they going to tell the public they can’t speak about certain taxes, or covid restrictions, or (fill in the blank)? This is tyranny, and absolutely unconstitutional!”
Clem then included sections about the First Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and a number of portions from the Wyoming Constitution.
Clem’s no longer in office but certainly finding ways to fill his time, it seems.
The library is working through the challenges still. As of this writing and most recent update, all of the books that have been reviewed so far have remained on Campbell County Library shelves.
It’s Perfectly Normal Among Books Being Moved in Craighead County Jonesboro Library, Arkansas
Complaints about books in the children’s section of the Jonesboro library that discuss sex were met with a still-disappointing response from library officials. The books would not be pulled, but they’d instead be moved. Despite the return of those books, the movement itself from the children’s section to the “parent/teacher” section within the children’s area is still a problem. It may not constitute full-blown censorship, but it restricts access to the intended readership and still falls within the definition of censorship.
From the Jonesboro Sun:
“Area parents are losing confidence in our library because this book never should have been where children could just accidentally pull it off the shelf in the first place … I’m certainly glad library staff moved this particular book to a different location, but it is also clear we have more work to do as a library.”
Nichols addressed Eckert’s releasing a list this week of books to be moved.
“Director David Eckert has advised that they will be disclosing the list of additional books that will be moved this week,” Nichols said. “I know many area parents are encouraged to hear the library will begin listening to parental input, since parental input is really what we should be listening to for the children’s area. I am sure area parents will continue to be watchfully waiting to see if our library does become a safer place for children to freely explore.”
By “area parents,” of course, the commissioners mean those who’ve shouted the loudest, rather than the entirety of the community being served.
This is a poor solution. One of the parents mentioned that It’s Perfectly Normal should never have been in the children’s section, as they might “accidentally” pull it off the shelf. Frankly: that’s the point. It’s a book for children about their bodies, as well as sex, gender, and sexuality.
It is not the public library’s responsibility to act in loco parentis. It’s the parent or caretaker job to be the parent.
Parent Complains About Gender Queer at North Kingstown, Rhode Island, High School
The complaint comes from a parent who didn’t want to be named, should they be labeled a censorious homophobe, but fortunately, the complaint about Gender Queer in the North Kingstown High School library will go no where. School officials defend the book being in the library.
From ABC 6 News:
“I don’t care if it’s a man, it’s a woman, [or] two women; whatever. It’s just the images, not the subject matter,” the mother, who didn’t want to share her identity, told ABC6 News.
ABC6 News took the issue to the principal of North Kingstown High School and the school district committee chairman, who didn’t respond to ABC6 News’ requests for comment.
Both Superintendent Phil Auger and Chairman Greg Blasbalg responded to the mother ABC6 News interviewed.
“[The book is] a valuable resource for someone who is working through issues of sexual identity and/or identifying as transgender,” Superintendent Auger said in the email.
The best part of this story outside of the book remaining on shelves is that the Chairman questioned the anonymous mother’s own reading of the book.
“Well, no, I’m not going to read this book, because the pictures speak for themselves,” the mother said.
Anonymous mom wasn’t the only one to complain about the book and a second parent raised concerns, too. Since the school wouldn’t remove or restrict the title, that parent filed a police report claiming the book was pornographic.
Gender Queer remains on shelves and police haven’t issued a public response to Nicole Solas’s nonsense report.
Superintendent Receives Death Threats Over Books in Isle of Wright County, Virginia, Schools
Last year, the Isle of Wright County schools did research on their students and discovered a sharp divide in achievement. White students fared far better than Black students and other students of color, and in response, the district hired an equity coordinator. This led to a string of complaints from parents, and now, books are popping up among complaints related to so-called “critical race theory.”
From WAVY 10 News:
Thornton says recently, community members have shifted their focus to two books found in school libraries that were part of the Read Woke Challenge.
The first book of concern, “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas, and the second, “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Perez, both contain explicit language that was read out loud by parents, teachers, and community members at the last school board meeting.
“That’s what you’ve put in our schools. A shame on every one of you that endorses this garbage,” said one Windsor man at the school board meeting last Thursday.
Parents also addressed critical race theory and claimed it was being implemented in Isle of Wight schools. Critical race theory is currently not taught in any Virginia K-12 schools.
“Organizations, political parties, academia, education unions, media even some ministries are profiting from the continual stirring of race-based politics this brings me to the dangerous divisive and especially profitable critical race theory. Isle of Wight County schools, though denying, have purchased CRT curriculum under the guise of equity,” said resident Laura Fletcher at Thursday’s school board meeting.
“Maybe we’re not teaching them to be a Democrat racist fast enough. Critical race theory is a … poison. Its primary objective is to separate child from child,” added another man, Karlus Bailey, who spoke at the school board meeting.
After the latest school board meeting, one board member resigned out of frustration, and a second board member announced they would not run for reelection. This has been happening across the U.S., thanks to determined censors and conservatives who are threatening and intimidating board members.
In relation to the books being challenged, despite complaints at the meeting, the buzzword mafia puts little action into following the procedures to file formal complaints to put the books through the review process.
Thornton says parents have been informed there are policy forms they can fill out for a review of the material. So far, he says he’s only received two of them.
“Instead, they come to the school board meeting and scream. They say it’s not political, but almost every speaker at the last meeting was coming up and using Terry McAuliffe’s name. It seems very politically charged,” said Thornton.
Jewish Student Talks About “Both Sides of the Holocaust” Southlake Texas ISD Book Challenge
A followup from last week’s story about Southlake/Carroll ISD’s insistence that “both sides” of an issue or historical moment be presented to students. A former Jewish student spoke to the board about his horrific experiences during his time at the school.
From NBC News:
Jake Berman, a Jewish former student, told board members that the bullying he endured in the district two decades ago was so severe that he contemplated suicide. His parents eventually pulled him out of the school system.
“I received everything from jokes about my nose to gas chambers, all while studying for my bar mitzvah,” said Berman, adding that he believed Peddy’s comment exposed the problem with new laws that limit how teachers talk about racism and other controversial subjects. “The facts are that there are not two sides of the Holocaust. The Nazis systematically killed millions of people. There are not two sides of slavery. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans in this country until June 19, 1865, a moment we’re barely 150 years removed from.”
No action has been taken yet on the school’s curriculum or both sidesism.
The Onion No Longer Needs To Create Headlines
Finally, we’ve gotten to where The Onion is no longer satire and no longer needs to develop its own headlines. They’re pulled from the real ones.
More Book Challenges and Censorship News This Week
- In Pennsylvania, a new “curriculum transparency” law will…likely result in seeing more book challenges.
- Here’s the original letter from Texas State Representative Steve Toph on the book that furthered his push for HB 3979, the bill which launched the Southlake/Carroll ISD “both sides of the Holocaust” discussion. In it, he perfectly showcases his white fragility over a book.
- Gender Queer and Lawn Boy — two of the censorship collective’s favorite targets — were at the center of controversy in central New Jersey high schools. The parents “raising concerns” in this one chose a host of books, all of which were part of the “Banned Books Week” “celebrations” at district schools.