As hundreds of books have been banned from schools in Missouri this year, the removals have come under renewed criticism from librarians and authors, including such high-profile writers as Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Lois Lowry, Laurie Halse Anderson and Art Spiegelman.
An open letter from PEN America Wednesday has a growing list of signatories criticizing the state’s removal of titles, including art historical texts like “Leonardo and the Last Supper” and graphic literature dealing with classics like “The Giver” and “The Handmaid’s” is about history.”
Jonathan Friedman, director of free speech and education programs at PEN America, said in a press release that “even amid an avalanche of book bans this fall, Missouri’s moves are striking.” PEN counts about 300 books banned from Missouri schools since November 15.
People also read…
This year’s removals come in response to fears over a new law (SB 775) that threatens misdemeanor charges against any school official who “provides a student with explicit sexual material.”
In September, Post-Dispatch education reporter Blythe Bernhard detailed which school districts in the St. Louis area were removing books and which were not. The PEN numbers do not include some of the counties that removed books.
The law allows exceptions for books in which explicit images are educational or have artistic and literary merit, and some of the books PEN lists have been pulled from school shelves for “review”.
This week, PEN’s Friedman explained, “These counties — and likely others as well — have appointed themselves censors, sweeping up in a trawl all manner of instructional materials, often with little documented justification that they have students’ right to read and learn, and the.” overriding the fundamental mission of public education and school libraries.”
Also this week, the St. Charles City-County Library sent a message to users asking them to provide feedback on a new administrative regulation proposed by the Secretary of State targeting public libraries in the state, raising the possibility of more book bans is expanded.
Rule 15 of CSR 30-200.015 means that public libraries could lose government funding if they do not “put in place measures to protect minors from age-inappropriate material”.
Like schools, public librarians already have standards and ways to group materials by age. They also already have procedures in place for visitors to dispute materials.
The St. Charles Library says:
“The St. Charles City-County Library, like all public libraries, was founded on the idea that all citizens, regardless of race, age, background or opinion, should have free and equal access to materials. No citizen should be able to decide for others what is appropriate for them. In the case of children, we also believe that the decision should rest solely with their parents or guardians. We also believe that the parent or guardian is the one responsible for this oversight, not the library. “
Not only could the new rule pose a financial burden, but it was also a “politicized measure to address an alleged problem that is not widespread in the day-to-day operations of public libraries.”
It notifies patrons that feedback on the Secretary of State’s proposal will be accepted between November 15 and December 15 and must include “15 CSR 30-200.015” in the subject line.
The library provides addresses for comments:
- Office of the Missouri Secretary of State, PO Box 1767, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
- Email address: [email protected]
Subject line: 15 CSR 30-200.015
“This is an unfounded and disingenuous attempt by a vocal minority to control access to diverse perspectives and experiences that are obscured by ‘child protection’ concerns.”
The Wentzville School Board banned a book from its library Thursday for sexual content. In January, the board banned The Bluest Eye, but later reversed it.
A parent group in St. Charles County has posted links to file police reports against school employees.
The St. Charles County Police Department will “refer to the citizen’s appropriate school district for review of any concerns related to the academic curriculum and the contents of library books.”
Kirkwood administrators banned 14 books in response to a new state law that is the third most banned of any school district in St. Louis County, behind Rockwood and Lindbergh.
Librarians, on instructions from lawyers, have been combing books for relevant content. Ten districts in St. Louis and the inner suburbs are ignoring the law.
Groups representing librarians are expected to urge Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to drop his proposal.