Book ban breakdown: Which titles are being removed and where

Book bans and challenges are hitting almost every corner of the nation in 2023 alone.

Book challenges were so urgent that the topic required a special meeting of the Escambia County school board this week to consider removing a trio of titles from the district’s libraries and classrooms. Before board member Kevin Adams and his board colleagues voted to remove When Aidan Became a Brothera book about a transgender boy who becomes a big brother—he noted that students in the Florida district would still be able to check the title out from the library.

“Go get books if you want to, but it’s something that should not be in the school district,” Adams said. “We should be concentrating on the education of our students, and if I can’t connect those dots I won’t approve the book.” But dissenting board member Patricia Hightower rejected claims that such books could indoctrinate children or steer them toward an LGBTQ+ lifestyle. “Reading books opens your mind but it doesn’t change who are you or what you are,” Hightower said. “It makes you a more compassionate, caring person.”

Book challenges building momentum

Ultimately, the Escambia County school board also removed the LGBTQ+-themed All Boys Aren’t Blue and And Tango Makes Three.

Those titles joined a growing list of more than 160 books that have been challenged, many of which had been targeted for removal by an Escambia high school teacher, the Pensacola News Journal reported. A review of all of the district’s libraries—which contain about 100,000 different titles—is also underway, the News Journal noted.

This activity in Escambia County reflects the rising tide of book bans and book challenges that has hit almost every corner of the nation in just 2023 alone. The push has even led to the removal of hundreds of picture books and biographies of Black baseball heroes Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente.

The list of books being reviewed by the Central Bucks School District outside of Philadelphia has grown from four to over 60 in just the last few weeks, WHYY reported, adding that all of the titles appear on a website called Book Looks, which pushes schools to ban books that contain “objectionable” and “sexual” content. The site was created by a member of Moms for Liberty, a national far-right organization aligned with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that has led multiple book-banning campaigns and accused school administrators of indoctrinating students with instruction on LGBTQ issues.

The books on Central Bucks’ review list include The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, TTYL by Lauren Myracle and Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson’s book, WHYY said. The school district said its latest policy on book challenges, enacted in July 2022, “was written to ensure that books are appropriate for the subject area and for the age, intellectual development, and ability level of the students for whom the material is selected and that salacious, graphic, explicit sexual content that is age-inappropriate is not on library shelves.”

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In January, 21 books were pulled from the library at the single high school in Madison County, Virginia. The school board charged that the books—including Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Stephen King’s It—are sexually explicit and thus inappropriate for high school children, HuffPost reported.

“Not one single parent has ever reached out to me about concerns about titles, or to request that their child be limited to certain books at checkout,” Charlotte Wood, a Madison County High School librarian told the district’s school board earlier this month, according to HuffPost. 

Book bans becoming law?

The ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association have filed a lawsuit against a law passed last year that now puts schools at risk of criminal charges and fines over books deemed inappropriate for students. “Extreme politicians … are using the government-knows-best model for legislation—in this case telling parents what their children can and can’t read at school and, in some cases, at home, while imposing criminal penalties on those who might disagree,” said Gillian Wilcox, deputy director for litigation at the ACLU of Missouri.

Lawmakers in Indiana have proposed a bill that would allow a parent or guardian to challenge books and have them removed from school libraries. The proposal would also put librarians and educators at risk of criminal prosecution for providing a book deemed inappropriate for children.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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