Activism Grows Nationwide in Response to School Book Bans | Books

Vera Eidelman, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, cited the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “local school boards cannot remove books from school library shelves simply because they don’t like the ideas in those books.” The sticking point, Eidelman acknowledged, is that school officials are allowed to ban books for reasons other than not endorsing the views expressed by the books. Officials might determine, for example, that the book is too profane or vulgar.

“The problem is just that often our definitions of, for example, vulgarity or age-appropriateness, are for lack of a better word, flabby, and they can also hide or be used as a pretext for decisions based on views by the government,” she said. noted.

Two anti-ban initiatives have been launched in Pennsylvania. In Kutztown, eighth-grade student Joslyn Diffenbaugh formed a banned book club last fall that began with a reading of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” The Pennridge Improvement Project has launched a campaign to buy books that have been pulled from schools, including Leslea Newman’s “Heather has Two Mommies” and Kim Johnson’s “This is My America,” and place them in small free libraries in the district.

The wave of bans led to new organizations and a shift in focus for existing groups. Katie Paris, an Ohio resident and founder of Red, Wine & Blue, a national network of politically engaged “PTA mamas and digital divas” founded in 2019, said that last year she began receiving calls from members pleading for help as debates over “critical race theory” erupt.

Colin L. Johnson