Houston, Texas — Texas banned more books from school libraries last year than any other state in the country, targeting headlines focused on race, racism, abortion, LGBTQ representation and issues, according to a new analysis by PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech.
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The report released Monday found that school officials in Texas banned 801 books in 22 school districts, and 174 titles were banned at least twice between July 2021 through June 2022. The content followed challenges from parents or lawmakers.
Among the books frequently removed is Gender: A Memoir by Maya Cobape, which depicts Cobabe’s journey to gender identity and sexual orientation. “Blue Eye” by Toni Morrison; “Roe vs. Wade: A Woman’s Choice?” by Susan Dudley Gould; “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez, which follows the love story between a Mexican American teenage girl and a black teenage boy in the 1930s in East Texas; and “All Boys Are Not Blue” by George M. Johnson, a personal account of growing up black and gay in Plainfield, New Jersey.
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“This censorship movement is turning our public schools into political battlegrounds, driving fissures within communities, forcing teachers and librarians out of their jobs, and quietly casting on the spirit of open research and intellectual freedom that underpins a burgeoning democracy,” Susan Nossel, Benn CEO of America at statement.
Across the country, PEN America found that 1,648 unique titles were banned by schools. Of these titles, 41% deal with LGBTQ topics or have notable LGBTQ minorities or heroes. Another 40% of these books contain notable heroes or minor characters of color.
What is remarkable about this book ban is that most of it is in books that families and children can choose to read, not any required reading, said Summer Lopez, director of the Freedom of Expression Program at PEN America.
Florida and Pennsylvania followed Texas as the states with the most bans, respectively. Florida banned 566 books, 457 books banned in Pennsylvania, with the majority of books removed from one school district in York County, which is known to be more conservative.
Lopez said her organization could not recall the previous year with a large number of reported books banned.
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“This accelerating movement has resulted in more and more students losing access to the literature that prepares them for the challenges and complexities of democratic citizenship,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of freedom of expression and education programs at PEN America and lead author of the report. He said in a statement.
Texas Writers Challenges can be traced back to last October, when he was the state representative. Matt KrauseR-Fort Worth, send a existing from some 850 books About race and gender – including Kobabe – to school districts to request information on how many of those are available on campus. The move motivated parents to successfully challenge and remove books they believe are inappropriate and “pornographic.”
The Keeler Independent School District in Tarrant County was one of the first To successfully remove “Gender Queer” from school libraries after a group of mothers complained that it was “pornographic”.
This latest series of book bans has unfolded against the backdrop of a national debate on Critical Race Theory, a college-level academic discipline that examines how racism is embedded in the country’s legal and structural systems. It is not taught in Texas public schools. However, some conservative politicians and parents have appropriated the term “CRT” to reject efforts in public schools to incorporate a more comprehensive and inclusive public school curriculum, something they equate to indoctrination.
Conservatives in some school districts have used book bans and grudges against social studies teachings to help garner public support and attract unprecedented money to win school board seats as part of a campaign that promised to eliminate “critical race theory” and “pornography” from schools. Amid the ongoing Republican-led political battles over how to allow issues related to race, gender, and sexuality to be taught in public schools, Gov said. Greg Abbott He made a promise to increase parental rights In the heart of the re-election platform.
However, Texas parents do have the right to temporarily remove their children from a classroom or activity that conflicts with their religious beliefs. They have the right to review all educational materials, and state law guarantees them access to their students’ records and to the principal or administrator. Also, school boards must establish a way to consider complaints from parents.
The PEN America analysis also found that this ban was largely driven by organized groups formed over the past year to combat “pornography” and “CRT” at school.
“The work of organized groups and advocacy for book bans in schools is particularly detrimental to students from historically marginalized backgrounds, who are forced to experience stories that validate their lives vanishing from classrooms and library shelves,” Friedman said.
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