Censorship

Why Didn’t The New York State Education Department Defend Its State Librarian?: This Week’s Book Censorship News, March 11, 2022

In celebration of Read Across America Day, schools and libraries championed favorite books in a giant celebration of all things reading. Among the participants on social media was the New York State Education Department. Several employees had their photos taken with a book they love, alongside a short statement of why they encouraged people to pick up those titles.

One of those tweets was quickly picked up by a Twitter account notorious for reposting content to its right-wing following and encouraging them to harass the person in question. This account was the reason behind the removal of a 3rd grade teacher from her classroom in the fall because she shared LGBTQ+ books on her personal TikTok account available to her students (she was later reinstated).

Screen shot of a tweet from a group targeting Lauren Moore.

The response was swift and immediate. Followers of the above account began to ask the New York State Education Department. The tweet, as well as the Facebook post, were deleted.

The story here isn’t (yet) what has or has not happened to Moore. It’s the fact that the State Eduction Department, where Moore is State Librarian, failed to defend her choice in a book that’s been making censors angry for the last year. Rather than double down on their choice to run the tweet and defend the right to read — rather than even note that accusations about the book being child pornography are wrong — the Department removed the tweet and rendered themselves complicit in active censorship. It was and remains a victory for right-wing groups like this one, further emboldening and empowering them to continue pushing for silence.

Compare this to stories of quiet censorship and see that where an institution of power like the above quietly pulls and buries its story while individual librarians whose jobs and livelihoods may be on the line by speaking out about the right for people to read whatever they’d like to read, and it’s impossible not to wonder what the Department was doing and who that Department is working for.

It’s certainly not the students.

It’s the bullies from which the State Eduction Department should be protecting those students.

Emily DeSantis, spokesperson for the New York State Eduction Department told The National Desk that,“[NY]SED was not aware of the graphic nature of the contents of the book, which is not apparent from its title. Once we became aware, we immediately removed the post. SED is investigating the circumstances under which this title was selected and posted.”

It’s unclear what graphic nature DeSantis and the rest of the team deemed unfit for promotion — Gender Queer is an award-winning book appropriate for teen readers — but what is clear is that the priority isn’t intellectual freedom and the freedom to read for people in New York state.

As of writing, no reputable news site has followed up on this, and the previously public LinkedIn account for Lauren Moore has been deleted.

This Week’s Call to Action

Frank Strong has put together an incredible resource for Texans: The Book-Loving Texan’s Guide to May 7th School Board Elections. This voters’ guide offers a look at school districts where board elections will be on the ballot in May, along with whose running, their beliefs, and where energy is really needed right now to ensure censorship doesn’t win at the voting booth. You’ll see clear lines of where money and support comes from for many of these candidates, as well as short histories of those communities and their ties to book removal agendas.

If you’re not in Texas, this guide is still for you. Can you help out with an election there by donating or spreading the word? How can you adapt this guide to your own state? It’s an incredible — and collaborative — tool.

For more ways to take action against censorship, use this toolkit for how to fight book bans and challenges, as well as this guide to identifying fake news. Then learn how and why you may want to use FOIA to uncover book challenges.

Book Censorship News: March 11, 2022

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