22 Titles Pulled from Missouri District Shelves to Comply with State Law and More | Censorship Roundup

In the latest Censorship Roundup, books are coming off the shelves and "safe space" stickers being removed to comply with state legislation; there is one big win for Barnes & Noble (and Maia Kobabe and Sarah J. Maas), but many more battles being fought district by district.

22 books removed to comply with Missouri law 

In order to comply with Missouri Senate Bill 775, the Rockwood School District announced the removal of 22 books from district school libraries. The law prohibits providing access to “explicit sexual material” in schools, exempting works “that have serious artistic significance.” Violating the law could result in a class A misdemeanor, which may include up to one year in jail and a fine of not more than $2,000. Titles removed includeBatman: White Knight by Sean Murphy,Gilgamesh: A Graphic Novel by Andrew Winegarner, and The Handmaid's Tale (Graphic Novel) by Renee Nault.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , local parent group St. Charles County Parent Association has compiled lists of books available in some Missouri school districts which they claim violate state law. According to the website, “We are currently working with legal experts to compile a list that we will classify as ‘criminal.’ We would be thrilled to collaborate with parents and grassroot groups in an effort to compile this list.”

If a challenged book isn’t removed, the group encourages parents to contact local law enforcement and file a police report. The group utilizes the book rating system from BookLooks.org, which rates books on a scale from 1-5: child guidance, teen guidance, minor restricted, no minors, aberrant content (respectively).

Lawsuit to remove books from Barnes & Noble is dismissed

A Virginia Beach Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that attempted to stop Barnes & Noble bookstores from selling Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. State delegate Tim Anderson filed suit in May, saying the books contained sexual content and are “obscene.”

Judge Pamela Baskervill, in turn, wrote that Virginia law doesn't grant circuit courts authority to determine if a book is obscene to minors, according to 13NewsNow . With that reason, the court dismissed the case.

Kobabe’s lawyer Jeff Trexler, applauded the result, saying, “This is blatantly unconstitutional, and I think it’s fundamentally against what we are about as Americans. I think to have the government come in and say, 'You cannot show these images, you cannot talk about this subject,' that is what would be obscene."

Books remain off the shelves in Georgia district

High schools in Forsyth County, GA, have the choice of returning seven of eight previously challenged books to library shelves: Looking for Alaska by John Green; L8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews; Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult; Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; and The Infinite Moment of Us by Myracle. Despite the option announced in mid-August after a review, none of the titles had been reinstated as of September 8. The one title to be permanently removed is All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson.

Initiated by parental concerns, eight titles were removed “indefinitely” from high school libraries in January. According to AccessWDUN, Forsyth County Schools chief communications officer Jennifer Caracciolo said the parents did not name specific titles but requested that staff be aware of content in media centers.

The eight titles underwent evaluations this summer, according to Forsyth County News. A group of teachers, parents, students, and media specialists were tasked with evaluating each title according to quality of the content, appropriateness for grade level, user appeal, support of the standards, and support of Forsyth County Schools’ goals.

No “Safe Space” stickers allowed in Florida county

Employees in Pasco County (FL) schools have been instructed by superintendent Kurt Browning to remove all “safe space” stickers from schools in order to comply with House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education legislation or so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to WFLA. The district released a statement on its website stating, “we must ensure that the actions we take to comply with recent legislation are not misinterpreted as a wavering in our commitment.”

The district statement further explained that it hopes to prevent future litigation by removing all stickers, since staff is required to report potential changes in a child’s wellbeing to the parent, and a child being in a “safe space” may or may not indicate a student’s wellbeing. Parents may sue for “‘damages. . . attorney fees and court costs’ stemming from a violation of these parental rights.”

Oklahoma teacher threatened with revocation of teaching license

Days after former English teacher Summer Boismier resigned from Norman (OK) High School, Oklahoma secretary of education Ryan Walters called for the state board of education to revoke her teaching license, according to the Norman Transcript.

Boismier faced parent complaints and threatening messages after covering up classroom books with paper and a sign that read, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read” and sharing a QR code with students to free reading materials from Brooklyn (NY) Public Library as part of its Books Unbanned project. One of the books includes Gender Queer. Walters said that Boismier provided students with access to pornographic materials.

Boismier stated in a CNN interview that teachers were instructed by the school district to cover books that may challenge House Bill 1775, prohibiting instruction during which “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”

Book displays removed from Texas public library

According to Houston Public Media, the Huntsville (TX) Public Library temporarily closed for two hours on Wednesday, August 31, to remove all book displays— including “Read with Pride” and banned books displays. Huntsville City Manager Aron Kulhavy said the library was closed in order to remove “all displays until such time that the city can review the policies and procedures governing displays.”

A flier calling for a Pride display to be removed and for community members to submit challenges to the titles on display circulated on social media, according to the Item.

Huntsville Texas Pride issued a statement condemning the act as discrimination and censorship: “We are further ashamed of and concerned by the fact that any city leader or employee would be involved in censoring a book display or the books themselves without due process.”

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