Book bans close in on American schools


Luka Konklin, Editor-In-Chief

Book bans have become increasingly popular in many school districts around the globe.

According to PEN America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary expression without restriction, there have been 2,532 individual banned books, with 1,648 unique book titles.

Book bans in schools are defined as taking any action toward a book based on its contents, challenges of parental/community values, administrative rulings, or in response to political action. Book bans lead to certain book titles being removed and disallowed in schools.

In American schools, the books that are offered are carefully selected by teachers and librarians, though book bans established by the school board overrule their selections

Many organizations are pushing for book bans, advocating for parental rights. They believe it should be the parent’s decision if they teach their children about certain topics.

At least 50 organizations around the nation are attempting to get books they disagree with removed from libraries, according to a recent study from PEN America. Recently, several have experienced rapid growth: 73% of the 300 chapters PEN monitored were started after 2020.

Many originally formed to resist Covid restrictions in schools. Organizations expanded their conservative goal to include opposing teaching about race, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as the removal of literature they deem offensive

Other organizations, such as Florida Citizens Alliance, have existed for a long time, founded in 2013.

Throughout the years, the group has collaborated with over 100 other organizations on a range of causes, including Mothers for Liberty and Americans for Prosperity Florida, a local chapter of a national organization established by billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Many books are banned based on sexual content. In Stroudsburg, the novel Speak, a story about a 13-year-old girl who was raped at a party before her freshman year of high school, was recently brought up for review by concerned parents at the February board meeting. The school board decided to keep the book in the curriculum, citing the educational merit of the novel.

Even books without sexual content can be problematic.  In more conservative areas, just the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters or topics alone is believed to be ‘sexualizing children’.

“Those kinds of lifestyles,” said Ms. Leigh Wambsganss, the executive director of Patriot Mobile Action, “shouldn’t be forced down the throats of families who don’t agree.”

Ms. Sherie Stauffer, the Stroudsburg High school librarian, has not felt threatened by book bans yet. 

We are taking away another weapon in their arsenal of tactics to live safely in our world,

— Ms. Sherie Stauffer

“Stroudsburg Area School District has a great selection policy,” Stauffer states. “There is a Challenge Policy that creates a panel of experts including the person with the objection. Everyone in this panel has to read the book to see the lesson of the text and to discuss the purpose. The committee then decides what happens to the book.”

Stauffer also goes on to explain the ability of our pupils to defend themselves is limited if topics like racism, sexism, bullying, and substance misuse are not taught.

One resource available to teenagers in the US is The Brooklyn Public Library.

The Brooklyn Public Library retaliated as a wave of book bans started spreading throughout the nation. It made books accessible to students worldwide online. Teenagers from all 50 states have requested 6,000 digital library cards through its Books Unbanned initiative since April.

The library and PEN America are now working together to bring the censorship debate to the students’ communities. The Right to Read Advocacy Institute, a new virtual course series, will instruct youth on how to protect books in their schools, libraries, and communities.