This week, as thousands of library workers descend upon DC to attend the first in-person ALA annual convention since the beginning of the pandemic, just down the road, two libraries are cleaning up graffiti. The Greenbelt branch library and the New Carrollton branch library of the Prince Georges County system were vandalized by 30-year-old Charles Sutherland. “Groomer” was sprayed on both libraries, a word that has become the rallying cry for the right against educators and library workers who dare to talk about LGBTQ+ issues or provide queer books. Sutherland is being charged with a hate crime.
The story in and of itself is worth talking about, as it’s not the first such incident this month. And in fact, it’s part of a long line of hatred and intimidation of queer people in public institutions this month alone:
- Complaints about a Pride display in Mandeville, Louisiana (though no formal complaint…yet)
- Pride displays and associated queer books are to be removed from all Smithtown, New York library children’s areas (as of 8 pm eastern on Thursday, June 23, this decision was overturned)
- In DeWitt, Iowa, a StoryWalk book was removed from its display (it’s a book about a unicorn)
- The Forest Library in Bedford County, Virginia had to remove its Pride display
- “One sobbed. Another yelled “perverts” at the Montgomery Township School Board members on Tuesday, June 14. Others in the crowd demanded to know what, exactly, did a Drag Queen named Harmonica Sunbeam read to Montgomery elementary school students during a Gay Pride after-school event” in New Jersey
- In Union County, North Carolina, the public library was told they cannot participate in community Pride events
- A Catholic group coordinated a nationwide “hide the pride” campaign to dismantle Pride displays in public libraries
- The Portsmith Public Library (OH) was readying to take down their Pride display because of complaints, but a patron went ahead and checked out all of the books for them
- “Hide the Pride” struck Litchfield, New Hampshire’s public library when the patron did not get demands met that the display be removed
- And more.
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The Sutherland story has a bit of a twist, though: he himself is a librarian. The hatred for the work librarians do came from within the fold, utilizing the rhetoric of right-wing extremists.
If you’re going to ALA this week, ask about this. Their stance of silence and neutrality around the hate crimes being committed and the threats of violence for those simply doing their job is unacceptable.
Being “united against book bans” does nothing if those who are working within the systems are themselves eager to spread the hate and bigotry. Old keys won’t open the new doors of censorship, and it’s beyond time for those who are involved in the organization to demand better.
Call To Action
This week, you need to write to each of your representatives at the state and federal level, as the Supreme Court just ruled on a case that will have detrimental effects on American public education.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court determined that in states where voucher programs allow for individuals to choose whether their kids go to public or private schools, religious schools cannot be exempted. This ruling is precisely what right-wing groups are hoping for, as more spin off their own brands of Evangelical conservative education systems to indoctrinate their children to white supremacist ideas.
This ruling is going to accelerate the book banning. If you’re thinking that’s a big leap, it’s not. You can read the ways it is done here, but in short, if funding is now tied to where people send their kids to school, a parent complains about a book in the school and isn’t satisfied with the results, they pull their kid from said school to send to one of their preferred schools on taxpayer’s money (taxpayer money is paying for these private, religious vouchers). Now, there is less money to go to the public school, further gutting already damaged systems.
Right-wing groups are celebrating this ruling all over their networks. Meanwhile, it’s mostly been quiet from everyone else, despite the fact this will have a chilling effect on not only on public education systems, but on free speech within them.
So why write your representatives if it’s been passed by the Supreme Court? You want to advocate for your state to examine and reevaluate their voucher programs to ensure your tax money does not go to fund these initiatives and if they do, you demand that religious institutions pay taxes themselves.
This Week’s Book Censorship News: June 24, 2022
- I won’t be linking to the stories, since they all come from right-wing propaganda, but thanks to Catholic Vote’s “Hide the Pride” campaign, the Dixon Public Library (IL) is dealing with a challenge of Gender Queer. Related: Illinois library workers are preparing for this to become more common.
- Independence School District (MO) removed the book Cats vs. Robots from elementary schools because it includes a nonbinary character.
- Remember how Nampa, Idaho’s school board permanently banned 22 books? Before making that decision, they’d only experienced one challenge in the last year. Those banned books are going to live in storage for now.
- “The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association sent a letter May 20 to Edina school district leadership, including Superintendent Stacie Stanley and the Edina School Board, regarding the use of the book, “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice” and a play of the same name that was put on by the Children’s Theatre Company. In the letter, the police group said the book demonizes the law enforcement profession” Snowflakes?
- Gender Queer will stay on the high school library shelves in Dixfield, Maine.
- Hanover County schools (VA) will keep A Place Inside of Me on shelves.
- Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will be allowed to remain in classroom use in Evans Middle School in Ottumwa, IA.
- The Wilkes school district (NC) is no longer running Battle of the Books events for students. Why? “Controversial” books. These kids are not allowed an event aimed at increasing their reading skills because they will have to read books. Got it.
- Littlestown School District (PA) is still being bombarded with parental dramatics about books during meetings.
- “At the library board’s meeting on Wednesday, Bertoldi asked for an audit of the library’s mobile app to determine if and how books with “sexual content” are being offered to minors.” An image of a display on an app caused an uproar in Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This is a public library system in Virginia. The meeting to discuss this will be happening before July 7.
- A Juneteenth display was removed in Pulaski County Public Library (KY). “Neutrality.”
- The latest from Vinton Public Library (IA) continues to highlight how parts of the community are digging their heels into bigotry.
- A parent complaining about books in Walker County, Georgia, schools does not even have kids in the district. She also conveniently uses right-wing group websites to “find” these books, including Florida Citizens Alliance.
- This story has blown up in right-wing Facebook groups, and it is worth highlighting a few things. Why did the news think it was necessary to point out these books are in the public library? That makes the library the next target and further, the woman at the center of all this is a failed school board candidate seeking her revenge (and keeping her name in people’s mouths). This is Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
- “A school board in southeastern Wisconsin has rejected a book recommended for use in a 10th-grade accelerated English class due in part to concerns that it lacked “balance” regarding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
- The Frisco, Texas, Independent School District is updating their book selection policies for the coming year. This will include. . . getting rid of Kirkus Reviews, since that professional review source deemed books that some parents complained about as worthwhile. They’re literally eliminating information.
- Our friends in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, public library just brought a pastor onto the board.
- I missed this story from last month, but it’s still relevant. In Dickinson County Public library (Michigan), there were complaints over a historical romance novel in the adult section of the library. It remained, but now there’s threats over funding.
- “Hickey said, “If this (‘The Giver’) was a high school book, I would be a yes. But for an incoming seventh-grader, in light of all that they’ve been through in the last two years, at this point in time I feel it is an age-inappropriate book.”” The Giver is literally a middle grade book. Fortunately, the two books under discussion will be used in Council Rock (PA) curriculum next year.
- “Once the Books Start Coming Off the Shelves, We’ll See You In Court.”: Book Censorship News, June 17, 2022
- How Moms For Liberty’s Book Ratings System Enters Schools: Book Censorship News, June 10, 2022
- The Misinformation Age: Book Censorship News, June 3, 2022
- Business As Usual: Book Censorship News, May 27, 2022
- You Need To Talk About The Sex Parts in Banned Books: Book Censorship News, May 20, 2022
- The School Board Project, Round One: Book Censorship News, May 13, 2022
- How to Update Your Book Challenge Forms (with Template): Book Censorship News, May 6, 2022
- How One District Is Pushing Back Against Book Banning: Book Censorship News, April 22, 2022
- What Do School Boards Do?: This Week’s Book Censorship News, April 15, 2022