Although book censorship impacts every single one of us — it impacts our democracy on a nationwide level — it is the students who are most impacted by decisions made by school boards, library boards, library and school workers, politicians, local officials, and right-wing bad actors. They are the ones who lose the ability to access materials that educate, enrich, and entertain and more, given that the vast majority of books being banned right now are those by or about people of color and queer people, students know, see, and feel the impact of these decisions on them beyond the covers of those books. Marginalized teens see themselves being labeled inappropriate, disgusting, and more, all of which takes a tremendous toll on their mental health.
This week, let’s look at some of the student-run, student-organized groups fighting back against these book bans. These student groups against book bans are happening in response to situations in their own schools and communities, as well as in places that have yet to see such censorship. The list below was developed through submission, meaning that students, educators, parents, and/or library workers shared the information. It does not include the PARU group from Central York School District (PA), which you can read about here.
Take the opportunity to get to know these teenagers doing important, relevant, and vital work in their schools and communities more broadly. Follow them on social media and offer them the encouragement and support they deserve.
Cobb Community Care Coalition, Cobb County, Georgia
The group organized a rally following the removal of books from the school library. You can see pictures from the board meeting, and honestly, it’s worth really looking at the differences in the types of people you see defending the decision to censor and those, like the Coalition, demanding better. No website or social media were provided.
DAYLO: Diversity Awareness Youth Literacy Organization, Beaufort (3 chapters), Charleston (1 active chapter, more coming), and Columbia, South Carolina (chapters coming soon)
The group began in April 2021 to meet the literacy needs of the community. They were inspired by a conversation with Disney Princess Anika Noni Rose, Black Lives Matter, Kalyn Bayron’s Cinderella Is Dead, and the Pat Conroy Literary Center.
It is a fully youth-led, mentor-advised group.
“DAYLO is a pro-literacy, anti-censorship student-led organization which routinely hosts book club discussions of books with diverse viewpoints and themes. We also host a monthly read-aloud for our younger peers and participate by invitation in Family Literacy Nights in our Title I elementary schools. As youth advocates, DAYLO leaders have spoken at school board meeting for 8 months in response to an ongoing book ban and review of 97 books pulled from our district’s libraries — in addition to writing letters to school board members and letters to the editor.
DAYLO’s student advocacy has been featured twice as a front page news story, once in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Post & Courier. We are the subject of the feature-length documentary film 97 (in production) and a national news media feature story we’re not yet allowed to talk about — but we would really, really like to. DAYLO students were also invited to develop the youth advocacy toolkit for the Get Ready, Stay Ready national resource. We have been featured alongside our friends from PARU in Education Week, in a live-stream for EveryLibrary, and — upcoming during Banned Books Week — a national livestream with Pat Scales and Raj Haldar for the Children’s Book Council. We have also presented at both of our statewide English teacher conferences — SCCTE and the Palmetto State Literacy Association (PSLA). Next year, specific to our youth advocacy efforts, we will be presenting again at PSLA and also at the SC Association of School Librarians (SCASL). At the recommendation of SCASL, DAYLO was recognized with a national commendation from the American Association of School Librarians. We also spoke at the ALA conference’s opening night Rally for the Right to Read, and we’ve met with Congressman Jamie Raskin on the issues of book bans and education censorship. DAYLO leaders also addressed the SC Senate subcommittee on education in opposition to House Bill 2738, an education censorship bill. We regularly share our experiences with other local and not-so-local interest groups through presentations and conversations, inspiring others into pro-literacy, anti-censorship actions as well.”
You can follow DAYLO on Instagram.
Intellectual Freedom Teen Council (IFTC), Hosted by Brooklyn Public Library but open to teens 13-19 anywhere in the U.S.
For teens eager to get involved in anti-censorship work, the IFTC is the perfect opportunity to not only learn how to do so but also to network with other young people doing similar work. The group launched in spring 2022 with Brooklyn Public Library’s Libraries Unbanned Initiative.
“The IFTC aims to put teens back at the center of intellectual freedom advocacy. Participants connect with a nationwide peer-support network as well as learn effective advocacy strategies for pushing back against censorship and protecting the right to read. In addition, IFTC participants provide feedback on programming related to BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative and hear from authors, librarians, fellow teens, and others with experience combating censorship.”
“The IFTC is a group for teens by teens. Participants learn how to be effective intellectual freedom advocates in their own communities. Additionally, participants are eligible to earn a certificate, a recommendation letter, and resume-boosting experience. But most importantly, participants have the opportunity to connect with peers across the country, discuss books, and find community.”
An IFTC member shared that, “I believe that to have a fair and inclusive society, we need to have free thought and a large part of that comes from the freedom to read…. To me, intellectual freedom means having the freedom and ability to think clearly for yourself, make critical decisions, and also have your voice heard. I am so excited to join the Intellectual Freedom Teen Council because it is the perfect place for me to continue developing my advocacy and surround myself with impactful youth who are making change in their communities. I cannot wait to join the IFTC to ensure intellectual freedom for youth across the world!”
Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT), Texas — began in Katy, now statewide
Katy, Texas, Independent School District students launched SEAT in November 2022 following the continuous waves of censorship throughout their school. Their goal was to end book bans and ensure their voices were being heard at school board meetings. As their name itself says, students deserve a SEAT at these tables.
“We developed amendments with state senators to the House Bill 900 book ban bill, and we introduced state legislation to protect students from internet censorship. We organized a statewide advocacy day at the Texas Capitol with students from DFW and Houston to advocate against book ban bills. State legislators wore our lapel pins (the SEAT logo, a morph of a chair and a book) on the chamber floors to protest HB 900. We distributed nearly 100 banned books at the August Katy ISD school board meeting along with 200 of our “know your rights” lanyards — 400+ showed up to protest LGBTQ+ censorship. We protested the Houston ISD library closures with an open letter with the NCAC and a read-in with HCVPE. Our executive director, Cameron Samuels (they/them) was invited to the White House to meet President Biden when he announced the appointment of a federal anti-book ban coordinator. They were invited to testify to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during the recent hearing on book bans.”
“Book bans affect students, yet they are imposed by adults. We deserve to be the decision-makers, and we overwhelmingly say no to book bans.”
Students Protecting Education, New York and South Carolina
In spring 2022, students at Orchard Park School District in Western New York were tired of hearing about book bans and decided to launch a group to fight back.
Students involved in the group passed along their information to be shared here, but so, too, did an unaffiliated adult who said the following: “[A]s an adult, I am inspired by these students who chose to stand up against board candidates who didn’t have their best interests. It is very powerful to see students getting involved with school board elections because ultimately the results impact the students above all in the district!”
Yorkville High School, Yorkville, Illinois
The to-be-named group of students in suburban Chicago will begin their initiatives on Monday, September 25, addressing the school board. Yorkville’s school board has seen a major change in leadership, and several current members of the board were not only funded by conservative PACs but are pushing their anti-Critical Race Theory campaigns into the district. The book Just Mercy, once used in classrooms, was banned at the previous school board meeting.
“While parents were the initially the ones that were angered by the boards removal of the book the students are the ones that have done the work to make sure their concerns are addressed. We are incredibly proud of them and they have fellow students, families and even school staff attending to help support them.”
“These kids are intelligent, well-spoken and passionate. We would love for them to not only get the recognition they deserve but also have the support to bring about real change!”
Book Censorship News: September 22, 2023
Last week, I highlighted several bomb threats at Chicago-area libraries. I had the opportunity to talk about those on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR.
- This story about a Drag queen makeup event at a northern Illinois public library perfectly encapsulates everything I’ve said now for almost 3 years: the bigots create a controversy, make it cost a lot of money, then turn around and complain about how their manufactured outrage proves how wasteful libraries are with tax money.
- Speaking of the costs associated with bigotry in the public library, here’s what it’s all costing in Crawford County, Arkansas.
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (NC) just banned the picture book Red: A Crayon’s Story. Wish that were a joke, but they’re cozy with Moms for Liberty.
- 19 books have been removed from Katy Independent School District (TX) shelves so far this school year, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
- The Lexington Two School District (SC) has removed 17 books from school libraries. “Parent group” complaints.
- Speaking of Lexington County, South Carolina, the “parental rights” contingent is also going after the public library.
- Nova Scotia’s Department of Education (Canada) has banned the use of The Hate U Give in schools.
- The St. Joseph County Public Library (IN) continued to hear from residents about LGBTQ+ books in the teen area. But in a twist on this story, of the 20 who spoke, it looks like only 3 were mad that the library decided to keep This Book Is Gay.
- A little more good news: six books challenged in Beaufort County, South Carolina, schools will be returned to shelves.
- Plant High School (FL) decided to keep Blankets on shelves.
- The Enoch Pratt Free Library (MD) took out a full-page ad in protest of the Carroll County School District reviewing 58 books that Moms For Liberty members are demanding be pulled from district shelves. More of this public-school solidarity, please!
- “The novel is shelved in the adult nonfiction section of the library; the parent objected on the grounds that children could still reach the book, according to MPR. That’s like banning motorized vehicles because kids can crawl from the back seat into the driver seat.” This is a great letter about the decision by the Carver County Public Library (MN) to keep Gender Queer on shelves.
- Monday’s Not Coming will only be available to 18-year-olds in Catawba County Schools (NC). This is the result of a complaint by a school board member.
- Westport, Massachusetts, is dealing with a book challenge over the reading of a Margaret Atwood short story in a high school class. It’s been in the curriculum for six years, but suddenly, it’s inappropriate.
- How and why Moms For Liberty’s base is growing in Wisconsin.
- Queen Charlotte and Sex is a Funny Word will remain on shelves in Rutherford County Library (TN) despite the city’s new decency ordinance.
- A story on how librarians did not sign up to be LGBTQ+ activists, but that’s the role they’ve taken on. Good piece, but I wish we were being a little more honest that it’s likely just as many librarians are not in favor of LGBTQ+ people or materials in their libraries.
- Coronado, California, is continuing to see the bigots mad about LGBTQ+ books available in the public library and are still airing their grievances with the city.
- Alabama Public Library Service will make a list of “inappropriate books” for children available. Republicans are salivating. More about the APLS — it’s the state library service — and about the “Clean Up Alabama” group behind the rise in censorship attempts at public libraries in the state.
- “Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District (TX) sent an email to parents of an 8th grade class about an incident that occurred regarding the class reading content deemed not appropriate. The district confirmed that the class was reading a book based on Anne Frank’s Diary, which is not Anne Frank’s actual diary.” A teacher was fired over reading the comic version of Anne Frank’s Diary.
- Las Cruces Public Schools (NM) is dealing with a challenge from a local conservative activist over Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts).
- Shenandoah County School Board (VA) is debating changes to the book selection policies for the libraries. You know that it’s never good when the third sentence of a story brings up the boogeyman of explicit content.
- Would you look at that? One of the bigots who has been behind the book challenges, which may shut down the Samuels Public Library (VA), is running for the local school board.
- Samuels Public Library (see above) got a temporary break and now has enough budget to operate for three more months.
- “The challenge includes locking the materials in a bookcase, employee area or a separate room marked as ‘adult only’ to be checked out by adults 18 or older with proof of age. The petition goes on to say, ‘If these requirements are not met, then we request all materials of the aforementioned warning be removed from the library inventory.’” Things are going well at the Garfield County Public Library (CO) board meetings with these bigots.
- Because of Florida’s new slate of fascist laws, the Osceola County School District had to sever its relationship with the local public library. Students who once automatically had access to the public library now no longer do.
- This is real news out of Massachusetts: “Concerns about whether a diversity flag should be allowed to fly on Plumb Library property and if a Little Free Diverse Library should be located outside the official town library were raised, at times heatedly, at the Rochester Board of Library Trustees Sept. 14 meeting. One resident at the meeting proposed building a ‘pro-family and pro-freedom little library’ on the Plumb Library site if the Little Free Diverse Library is allowed.”
- In Indian River County Schools (FL), 128 books are currently under review.
- I’ve seen this bubbling up a bit over the last year, so nice to see it covered more in-depth: climate science is the next target of the far right.
- You don’t say — it’s a legislator lying about books and book displays at an Alabama public library for political gain?
- Keep an eye on the Mesa, Arizona, area schools and libraries. Moms For Liberty chapters are coming, and at least one school district will be putting a committee together to review their curriculum under “parental rights” nonsense.
- Northview Public Schools (MI) are debating whether or not to ban 8 books.
- Although this story is paywalled, the gist is in the headline: Brainerd High School (MN) will not be removing Empire of Storms from the school library.
- The bigots showed up to Elk Grove Unified School District (CA) to demand the schools ban books they disagree with. This quote’s a gem: “Stop trying to usurp our responsibility to teach our kids about sex and our right to teach them in a way that conforms to our beliefs especially because we love our children better and more than any professional educator could.”
- The aggrieved continue to fight back against the Caro Area District Library’s (MI) decision not to move books for children from the children’s section.
- St. Charles County Public Library (MO) got to hear from their book crisis actors this week over a book published for adults that is available in the adult section. This is where we are — adults thinking they can also tell other adults what is and is not appropriate. This is how they spend their time.
- More on the push to remove books from Brookings Schools (SD). This particular group of book banners isn’t even trying to hide that this is their republican party agenda. I thought y’all were into small government?
- Pinellas County Schools (FL) removed five books from the libraries in the district. They did so without any complaints being filed about those books.
- It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable were pulled from the Lexington School Library (VA).
- Seminole County School Board (FL) allowed parents to perform their dramatic readings from books this week at the board meeting, which allowed them to not immediately pull the books. The Florida law is such that if they were to cut off the crisis actors, they’d have to then remove the books.
- The Mat-Su school district (AK) book banning committee — sorry, book review committee — has recommended four books be banned — sorry, removed — from the school district. They are It’s Perfectly Normal, Drama, The Bluest Eye, and The Lovely Bones.
- “In response to complaints, concerns and requests to review several books that contained sexually explicit material, the board agreed to place stickers on books to indicate age appropriateness. Also, all children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult at least 19 years or older.” This is at the Ozark Dale County Public Library (AL). Stickers…
- The Cullman County Library Board (AL) is hearing complaints over several books, including Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack, Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, and Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. I don’t know about you, but I see a theme here.
- In good news, the Dayton Memorial Library (WA) will not be shutting down after a few people were mad about books.
Also In This Story Stream
Book Fairs Will See An Increase In Censorship Attempts This Year: Book Censorship News, September 15, 2023
Championing Inclusivity in Library Collection Policies: Book Censorship News, September 8, 2023
How To Alert Your School Board to Right-Wing Bad Actors: Book Censorship News, September 1, 2023
Library Bomb Threats Continue to Increase: Book Censorship News, August 25, 2023
Districts Are Turning to AI to Ban Books: Book Censorship News, August 18, 2023
Age-Restricted Library Cards Aren’t a Solution. They’re a Liability: Book Censorship News, July 28, 2023
How To Own A News Cycle: Book Censorship News, July 21, 2023
Book Censorship News: July 14, 2023
The Most Banned Books in the U.S. Are Not New Books: Book Censorship News, July 7, 2023