The role of local, regional, and national organized groups in banning books has several implications that differ from previous models where book-related challenges tended to be caused locally and spontaneously by individual parents. The groups behind these bans often provide materials, message templates, and other types of instruction that facilitate book-related challenges and accomplish their efforts with a level of focus and determination that may surprise local school officials. Groups with political connections and advocacy resources are able to mobilize political support behind their censorship campaigns and pressure local teachers, administrators, and school boards. Engagement on social media or at board meetings can also create an atmosphere of bullying that can undermine a community`s ability to discuss and assess concerns in a measured manner. Many Americans can imagine challenges to books in schools regarding responsive parents, or those who are simply worried after flipping through a paperback in their child`s backpack or hearing a surprising question about a novel their child put down at the dinner table. However, the vast majority of book bans underway today are not spontaneous, organic expressions of civic concern. Rather, they reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy groups that have made sophisticated censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission. In Texas, for example, school librarians formed a new organization, #FReadom, to fight back. In Urbandale, Iowa, a group of students and parents recently took to the podium at a school board meeting to defend books in the school library. PEN America estimates that at least 40% of the bans listed in the index (1,109 bans) are related either to proposed or enacted laws or to political pressure from state officials or elected legislators to restrict the teaching or presence of certain books or concepts.
Smaller, less formal groups also had an effect. Between February and April 2022, Missouri`s Nixa Public Schools received 17 complaints about 16 books, each citing «inappropriate and sexually explicit content,» which were later banned. The woman who made the most requests confirmed that she was a member of Concerned Parents of Nixa, a private Facebook group where community members gather to fight «questionable books, programs and other materials such as sex education in Nixa public schools.» Concerned Parents of Nixa recently changed its name to Concerned Parents of the Ozarks. While it is not clear whether their list simply came from another group, the titles they questioned are the same as those seen repeatedly in school libraries that had to access them or otherwise eliminate them. A school official replied that it would be removed from the shelves but would remain available upon request with parental permission. However, reports of school districts bowing to pressure and removing books are widespread. «These Texas and Oklahoma book banners are not alone,» former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut wrote for NBC News, noting that the protests led school libraries to pull books off shelves in Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, Utah and Florida. GBAO and Anchor Collaborative conducted a similar survey in April and May 2022 and found that a majority of Americans felt efforts to censor classroom conversations about race «went way too far.» 16 The survey asked participants to rate on a scale of 0 to 10 how well a group of statements about «historical facts, honesty, and no one ashamed of their background» described what they thought about race in America, where 10 means «describes how comfortable you feel» and 0 means it «doesn`t describe at all, how you feel. Fifty-nine percent of people responded to the following statement with a score from 8 to 10: However, attempts to ban books have found their way to the Supreme Court.
Then, on Dec. 16, Oklahoma State Sen. Rob Standridge raised the bar to ban books to a new level. Standridge, a Republican, proposed a bill that would allow parents to challenge books in public school libraries and collect $10,000 for every day the book sits on shelves after 30 days. During the school year, those calling for the removal of books increasingly turned to books depicting LGBTQ+ people or touching on LGBTQ+ identities, as well as books that they said contained «sexual» content, including titles on sexual and reproductive health and sexuality education. These trends have already been identified in the first edition of the report Banned in the USA (April 2022) by the American PEN America. From April to June, however, these issues received particular attention. This was accompanied by the passage of Florida`s «parental rights in education» law in late March — also known as the «Don`t Say Gay» law — and the introduction of similar laws in other states, as well as a series of efforts to censor discussions about LGBTQ+ identities in schools.
in Maryland, Missouri, Texas and beyond. From April to June 2022, one-third of all book bans included in the index have LGBTQ+ identities (92 bans). In the same short period, nearly two-thirds of all book bans in the index relate to topics related to sexual content such as teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, abortion, sexual health and puberty (161 bans). Many of the books to be banned have been called «obscene.» These complaints are not well-founded. The legal test of obscenity requires a holistic assessment of the material and sets a bar that is highly unlikely that materials selected for inclusion in a school library will be met. Many targeted books have achieved bestseller status or received the highest literary awards. Some contain nothing more «obscene» than the mere suggestion of a same-sex couple in an illustration, as in the book Everywhere Babies, which was included in a list of books falsely labeled «pornographic,» along with And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins forming a family together, based on the true story of two male penguins. who formed a couple bond at the Central Park Zoo in New York. The most banned book, Gender Queer, has been called «obscene and pornographic» by groups campaigning for its removal, as have dozens of books featuring LGBTQ+ themes or characters. For example, a school may decide not to keep a book in its library, or a bookseller may refuse to sell a particular book, or a library may try to remove a book from its collection.
But official regulations and rules that «ban» books are extremely difficult to enforce on a large scale in the United States because of our rights to free speech and freedom of the press. Some groups seem to thrive on work to promote various books, distorting these efforts to achieve their own censorship goals. They reversed the purpose of the lists compiled for teachers and librarians interested in introducing more diverse reading material into the classroom or library. For example, one group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, referenced several lists celebrating books on equality, inclusion, and human rights under the title «Federal Agencies Sexualize Idaho Libraries,» accused the federal government of «using taxpayer dollars to promote an ideology harmful to young children,» and called on the Idaho legislature to reject federal library funding. Another group, the Michigan Liberty Leaders, took a photo of books from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation`s welcoming schools bullying prevention program — including books designed to support LGBTQ+ students — and added alarmist language that the books are in schools. In 2020, the top ten reasons books were challenged or banned, according to the American Library Association: The First Amendment gives anyone living in the United States, including students, the freedom to express the opinion they want.