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A couple of weeks back, I shared a roundup of pending legislation across several states and at the national level which would ensure the right to read. There is another bill worth highlighting during this legislative session that is making positive progress in Connecticut.
Senate Bill 2, called the Act Concerning the Mental, Physical, and Emotional Wellness of Children, is a wide-ranging one covering everything from children’s mental health coverage to public libraries. Most pertinent to the ongoing removal of books from public and school libraries, though, is the bill’s creation of sanctuary libraries across the state. The bill would allow every community within Connecticut to designate a public library as a sanctuary library, wherein books which have been banned, challenged, or censored will be readily available to anyone who would like to borrow them.
The bill would open up small grants for libraries which choose to take on the distinction as sanctuary libraries, coming in at about $1,200 annually. The bill has made its way through committees and has been slated for discussion on the Senate floor for this week. You can follow the progress here.
Senate Bill 2 signals to libraries across Connecticut that the legislators find access to information so vital that it belongs under the state’s child wellness bill. Connecticut’s Ferguson Public Library in Stamford was the second library in the country to declare itself a sanctuary library in January 2023, following the lead of Chicago Public Library last fall. Under the new bill, any city could designate one library a sanctuary. Those cities with more than one public library may meet criteria to become eligible as sanctuary libraries or may choose to remain “nonprinciple” libraries; the difference would be in ability to receive the grants earmarked for the purposes of sanctuary libraries.
The bill was a surprise to the Connecticut Library Association and to librarians across the state. It emerged following a meet-and-greet hosted by the Ferguson Library following its designation as a sanctuary library; Senator Cici Maher attended the event, and two weeks later, after hearing from constituents that book bans were among the biggest concerns of library workers, she returned to session and her committee and began drafting the proposal.
Tying state aid to such designations is similar to Illinois’s Right to Read legislation. Every library will be able to choose for themselves how to proceed, but there are benefits from the state to those who stand up for intellectual freedom and the First Amendment Rights of all within these public facilities.
Such bills will not end the onslaught of book bans. What they do, though, is offer opportunities for libraries to protect themselves one step at a time and ensure that the majority of people — who time and time again emphasize seeing book bans as inappropriate and unpopular — will have their libraries represent them. Moreover, these bills aid in rallying for more legislative action in other states and municipalities to protect the right to read.
Book Censorship News: May 19, 2023
- It took far too long for a major publisher to do anything about book bans, but this move by PEN America, Penguin Random House, and a slate of authors to sue Escambia School District over First Amendment violations is most welcome. If you read the actual filing, they note just how book banners are using the Moms for Liberty BookLooks site. If you, like me, are paywalled from the NYT article above (WAY TO BE COMPLICIT), PEN’s detailed everything as well, sans paywall.
- So much coverage of the people fighting back against book bans is not great, but this story in the LA Times about the fight to uphold the right to read is solid.
- An update on book banning in Central York (PA): the new language in the access policy would let kids have access to any books but parents could restrict for their own students. This….is how it always should be. Moreover, we know how few parents actually opt their kids out, anyway.
- I told you the wave of bans against Assassination Classroom was imminent, and here’s the push in Osceola County, Florida.
- Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools Board (MI) has permanently banned Gender Queer from the schools.
- “Illinois parents reportedly called the police after a local middle school teacher allowed her students to read a book that tackled the topics of gender and sexuality.” This is over This Book Is Gay being used as part of a “book tasting” program where students get to look through tons of books to see if there’s something they might like to read. But go on, you don’t coparent with the government except you call the cops about a book.
- In Flagler County schools (FL), two more books were removed from shelves after book banners complained. The books did not go through the formal review process because why have a policy when you can just give into “parental rights” folks?
- So no books are being banned at Coehlo Middle School (MA), but no one in 5th or 6th grade can borrow books labeled “YA” unless they know the specific name of the book? Wild.
- Corvallis-Benton County Public Library (OR) has had five book challenges in the last year, including one to the Animorphs graphic novel (volume 2 specifically). None have happened.
- A Holland, Michigan Councilman decided to play book crisis actor over Gender Queer recently, and the Zeeland Public Schools (MI) are dealing with a wave of book crisis actors complaining about porn in the schools, demanding an “opt-in” policy to materials.
- The Newtown, Connecticut, school board — yes, that one — can’t decide on whether or not to ban Flamer. For some perspective, the children who were murdered in that school in 2012 would be seniors this year and the board can’t decide if they would have been able to access a YA graphic novel about a biracial boy discovering his sexuality at summer camp when he was a young teenager.
- Central Bucks Schools (PA) have pulled This Book Is Gay and Gender Queer from school shelves.
- Wake County schools (NC) have made a new policy where “perversely vulgar” books cannot be read aloud or be included in classroom libraries. Is “perversely vulgar” defined? Of course not.
- The June school board meeting for the Nixa schools (MO) will decide whether or not to ban seven books from the schools.
- “In recent weeks, Waco Independent School District trustees [TX] have been contacted by individuals concerned by what they consider inappropriate materials in Waco ISD libraries, emailing lists detailing books in the high school library collection catalogs that the critics claim are unsuitable for students. The lists contain 72 books from the University High School library and 41 from the Waco High School library, 58 of which were challenged for sexual references or content. Text in the emails sent to board members references the organization Texans Wake Up, but several board members contacted about the critics said they do not think they are Waco ISD parents.” Shocker, it’s organized.
- Students in Forsyth County Schools (GA) can’t access a book without parental permission, and thanks to the paywall, the local news is complicit in hindering access to information. Here’s an unpaywalled summary.
- A small group of vocal bigots in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada want to remove queer books from school shelves.
- Liberty Lakes, Oregon just passed a new law wherein the city council — city council — gets to make decisions on book bans at the public library. Not the library board. Not the trained library workers. City council.
- “Every school library will publish a list of books in its collection that contain sexually explicit content. Parents can electronically notify the librarian if they want certain books to be off limits. It can be handled online in the same system used to check out books or monitor whether they’ve been returned on time.” This is Fauquier County Schools in Virginia. You’ll be shocked to learn there’s no clear definition of “sexually explicit.”
- Ludlow Public Schools (MA) have a school board looking to limit “pornographic” books. You know. Since the school is full of them. They stole much of the language in the policy from book banners in Pennsylvania.
- Gender Queer will remain on shelves at Kalona Public Library (IA).
- In Saline County, Arkansas, Republicans paid to put up a billboard claiming the public library is full of porn.
- Middle school students at Hempfield Area Public Schools (PA) staged a walkout over limiting access to books at school.
- “For nearly an hour of the more than three and half-hour school board meeting earlier this month, concerned citizens, most of which were with Moms For Liberty members, spoke on the appropriateness of certain books in Santa Rosa District Schools and questioned the process by which parents can make decisions about the reading material available to their children. Moms for Liberty claims that there at least 28 books found on the Santa Rosa District Schools website that had sexually explicit or culturally indoctrinating language in them.” This is Santa Rosa County, Florida.
- Three books have been pulled from shelves in Colorado Springs, Colorado’s Academy School District 20.
- Dorchester Schools (SC) will keep Stamped on shelves for students to access.
- Mansfield Independent School District (TX) just got a nice letter from the ACLU that their new anti-trans book policy is a danger to, well, trans students. This is a board that’s been influenced by ultra right-wingers and does not actually reflect the broader community. The school board is going forward with their anti-trans, anti-gender fluid policy anyway.
- A survey of book banning across Tennessee.
- “The Hambys argued the constitutional rights of parents and their religious liberties were being subverted by a ‘progressive woke ideology’ driven by Deidre Grzymala — director of the county Library System at the time — and her employees. They claimed this reported ideology was ‘normalizing and equating homosexual and transsexual lifestyles with heterosexual family units’ without parental consent or the ability to not participate.” Anyway, the Crawford County Public Library (AR) is making a committee who will determine a policy on where and how people can speak at board meetings.
- A Catholic church in Front Royal, Virginia, is working to get over 100 books pulled from the Samuels Public Library. Here’s the group’s cute little website.
- Laney Hawes continues to be the kind of anti-censorship advocate doing on-the-ground work that we need. The ongoing battle over books in Keller ISD (TX).
- Earlier this year, Ouachita Parish Library (LA) received complaints over two sex-themed books, including Let’s Talk About It (a favorite among the crisis actors). The library is waiting to hear from the attorney general (remember, the one who has a librarian snitch line) about what to do. In the interim, they’ve put the books behind the desk and only those over 18 can borrow them. Also not how libraries work.
- “Seven books will be returning to Beaufort County School District (BCSD) library shelves and one book, Identical by Ellen Hopkins, will be going back into the book review process due to a tie vote following the book review committee meeting on Thursday, May 11, 2023, at Okatie Elementary School.” The current status of the mass book review process happening at a South Carolina school district.
- A pastor and member of Turning Point USA (y’know, super unbiased) thinks that It’s Perfectly Normal needs to be removed from Asheville, North Carolina schools.
- There are lots of news outlets still thinking we need to legitimize Moms when they talk like this.
- “In a FOX23 exclusive, we obtained the entire controversial email State Superintendent Ryan Walters sent to lawmakers last month with explicit content shown in books that he says are in some Oklahoma public schools. On the front page of the email, it said he wanted to be completely transparent to leave people with zero doubt that his administration is doing all they can to protect children from ‘demented ideologies.’” Shocker that it’s a lot of made up stuff packaged as a crisis that doesn’t exist.
- Tricks will remain on shelves in Carroll Community School District (IA), though the vote was very close.
- Western Placer Unified School District (CA) will keep The Hate U Give as part of their 9th grade curriculum.
- Paywalled because the media is complicit, but the Columbia County Board of Commissioners (GA) heard complaints about where books are located in the public library this week.
- Boundary County Library (ID) is holding its first reconsideration meeting of four book titles this week on Thursday — we’ll likely have an update next week.
Also In This Story Stream
How To Prepare Library Pride Displays: Book Censorship News, May 12, 2023
2023 Right to Read Bills Under Consideration: Book Censorship News, May 5, 2023
The Next Generation United Daughters of the Confederacy: Book Censorship News, April 28, 2023
So, What Are Agents Seeing in the Era of Book Bans?: Book Censorship News, April 21, 2023
What 100-Year-Old Grace Linn Can Teach Us About Standing Up for the Freedom to Read: Book Censorship News, March 31, 2023
Are Literary Agents Seeing Changes in Publishing with Increased Book Bans (A Survey): Book Censorship News, March 24, 2023
I Asked ChatGPT Why Books Should Be Banned: Book Censorship News, March 17, 2023
Anti-Censorship Groups Across the US: Book Censorship News, March 10, 2023
Giving Up Is Not an Option: Book Censorship News, March 3, 2023