Story at a glance
- A school district in Missouri on Monday said it would reshelve two LGBTQ+ titles after removing them from their libraries following a board meeting last month.
- The ACLU on Monday issued a warning to the school district, claiming the removal of the books violated students’ First Amendment rights. Students had also petitioned to have the books returned.
- George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue” has been banned by school districts in at least eight states.
A Missouri school district on Monday said it would return two books exploring LGBTQ+ themes to its high school libraries following public outcry.
The North Kansas City School district announced its plans to reshelve “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Fun Home” in a letter to students’ families on Friday, according to The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the letter on Monday through a district spokeswoman.
Both books were pulled from library shelves following a school board meeting in October, when parents complained they were inappropriate and sexually explicit.
“I am shocked and absolutely aggravated at what is in our school systems,” James Richmond, the president of one of the district’s parent associations, told the local news station KCTV at the time.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri on Monday issued a warning to the school district for removing the books, claiming the decision violated students’ First Amendment rights and demanded they be returned to libraries no later than 10 p.m. on Monday.
“Students must be free to access library books—without discrimination or censorship—that are LGBTQ+ affirming as well as books that provide an inclusive and accurate history of racism,” ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Luz María Henríquez said in a statement.
George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” which has been banned by school districts in at least eight states, details the author’s experience navigating adolescence as a young, queer Black person.
Content deemed “sexually explicit” appears briefly in two chapters in a book of more than 300 pages. Johnson’s telling of their first consensual sexual experience, when they were 20 years old, is often cited by critics as a reason to ban their memoir.
“My one book is not what is going to harm your child. It is the fact that you are not allowing them to understand the world that they live in that is ultimately going to harm your child,” they said in a recent interview with the Advocate.
The graphic novel “Fun Home” by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, developer of the “Bechdel Test,” chronicles Bechdel’s dysfunctional childhood in rural Pennsylvania, exploring, among other things, gender and sexual orientation.
The North Kansas City School district’s reversal on its ban is a huge win for opponents of censorship in public schools, but book bans are becoming more common as a coordinated campaign against titles dealing with race, gender, and sexuality picks up speed.
Outside of school districts, political leaders like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), have called for education officials in their states to remove “inappropriate” and “obscene” content from school libraries.
“What has taken us aback this year is the intensity with which school libraries are under attack,” Nora Pelizzari, a spokeswoman at the National Coalition Against Censorship, told The Washington Post earlier this month.
“Particularly when taken in concert with the legislative attempts to control school curricula, this feels like a more overarching attempt to purge schools of materials that people disagree with,” she added. “It feels different than what we’ve seen in recent years.”
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