RISING SCHOOL BOOK BANS THREATEN FREE EXPRESSION AND STUDENTS’ FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
Book bans in public schools have recurred throughout American history, and have long been an issue of concern to PEN America, as a literary and free expression advocacy organization. Over the past nine months, the scope of such censorship has expanded rapidly. In response, PEN America has collated an Index of School Book Bans, offering a snapshot of the trend. The Index documents decisions to ban books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
While this is the first time PEN America has conducted a formal count of books banned, the organization has fought back against book bans for decades. In 2016, PEN America published Missing from the Shelf: Book Challenges and Lack of Diversity in Children’s Literature, which described instances of ‘soft censorship’ taking place in schools and libraries in response to parents’ challenges of books. The report also highlighted the disproportionate targeting of books by or about people whose identities and stories have traditionally been underrepresented in children’s and young adult literature, such as people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, or persons with disabilities.
Today, state legislators are introducing — and in some cases passing — educational gag orders to censor teachers, proposals to track and monitor teachers, and mechanisms to facilitate book banning in school districts. At the same time, the scale and force of book banning in local communities is escalating dramatically. In recent years PEN America has typically encountered a handful of such cases each year. The findings in this report demonstrate a profound increase in both the number of books banned and the intense focus on books that relate to communities of color and LGBTQ+ subjects over the past nine months.
American bigots, especially the political flavor attached to the Republican Party, hate and fear free speech. They panic over simple reporting of facts exposing their politics of censorship. Exposing their activities sends them scuttling like rats for the nearest hole. Time enough to rollout their usual defense: patriotism and paternalism