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).
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
- The book ban bill in Indiana has died.
- 17 books are under fire at Keystone School District in Knox, Pennsylvania. The complaint names titles such as Out of Darkness, This One Summer, Two Boys Kissing, and a host of other titles all culled from the circulating Moms For Liberty target list. The board agreed in January to look into the books, had no response in February at their meeting, and the news just came out this week.
- Llano County, Texas, has closed their library advisory board meetings to the public. This library, which had a new board installed late last year for the sole purpose of materials review, also closed down to remove titles from the children’s area. An anti-censorship group has formed to oppose the board.
- Gender Queer will remain on shelves in Hudson High School in Ohio.
- There’s yet to be any decisions made on the nine books being challenged in Yorktown Central School District in New York. The nine titles are included here. They are all from the Moms For Liberty list.
- The kids are all right (even though they shouldn’t need to be). An update from Walla Walla, Washington.
- Black and White by Paul Volponi is being challenged in Lower Township, New Jersey.
- In Auburn, New York, All Boys Aren’t Blue will remain on high school library shelves.
- Williamson County, Tennessee, school board members are updating their materials policies and one of the most disturbing parts of what one board member says is that there’s simply not enough oversight of librarians and the work they do.
- An anonymous person complained about Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian at Derby High School in Kansas, so the book was removed.
- Here’s the full list as it stands of books pulled from shelves in Indian River County school libraries in Florida.
- This is a very confusing story of potential book removal — or not? — in the Dedham, Massachusetts, public library. If there hasn’t been a removal beyond typical library weeding per policy, it looks like some patrons may be wanting that to happen?
- The Lindburgh, Missouri, board of education is keeping three challenged books on shelves. One of those books will come with restrictions.
- A former board member of the Leavenworth, Kansas, school system complained about Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian; the board was clear in how they respond to parental challenges, including to this title, as well as how this is consistent with trends in book challenges they’re seeing across the country.
- A big challenge is underway in Edmond School District in Oklahoma. This one emerged from a local censorship group, whose website offers “reviews” of books in the schools, including this one.
- Franklin Regional School District in Pennsylvania is pausing teaching Persepolis, thanks to parental complaints.
- If you’re familiar with the podcast Southlake, a new episode dropped about book bans and challenges in the Texas community. Here’s the transcript.
- There’s currently a big curriculum review happening in West Bend, Wisconsin. This story doesn’t talk about a whole lot, but the comment on this story is telling — there’s a sect of parents wanting a certain history and story told in schools and certain school board candidates “for change” are being championed. More, West Bend has been central to previous incidents of book challenges.
- A pro-censorship parent proudly steps up to run for school board in Ely, Nebraska. If this is your community, you need to read this and vote accordingly.
- Worcester County Public Schools in Maryland received two complaints about All Boys Aren’t Blue and are reviewing the title, available in the high school library.
- A parent in Wake County, North Carolina, wants Lawn Boy removed from Cary High School’s library.
- This statement by an Ellsworth, Kansas, teacher who was thrown under the bus about a classroom book is essential reading.
- Hempfield Area School District in Pennsylvania is reviewing The Black Friend and All Boys Aren’t Blue after complaints about both.
- Why is a right-wing, faith-based group being permitted to review policies in a Virginia public school district?
- Tucked into this story is how Fayetteville, Arkansas, school district had its first challenge in years this school year with All Boys Aren’t Blue.
Also In This Story Stream
- Who Are The Groups Banning Books Near You?: Book Censorship News, September 23, 2022
- A Banned Books Week Action List: Book Censorship News, September 16, 2022
- How to Run for School Board: Book Censorship News, September 9, 2022
- How To Create A Good Banned Books Display: Book Censorship News, September 2, 2022
- States That Have Enacted Book Ban Laws: Book Censorship News, August 26, 2022
- Defending the Right to Read: Book Censorship News, August 19, 2022
- How To Find and Develop a Local Anti-Censorship Group: Book Censorship News, August 12, 2022
- A Template for Talking with School and Library Boards About Book Bans: Book Censorship News, August 5, 2022
- The School Board Project, Round Two: Book Censorship News, July 29, 2022
- What Would Help You Fight Book Bans?: Book Censorship News, July 22, 2022