Biden Administration to Address Book Bans
On June 8, 2023, the Biden administration announced that the The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will “appoint a new coordinator to address the growing threat that book bans pose for the civil rights of students. That coordinator will work to provide new trainings for schools nationwide on how book bans that target specific communities and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws.”
Defining book bans as a threat to civil rights, the initiative is part of actions intended to protect the LGBTQI+ communities. The statement explains, “Across the country, our nation faces a spike in book bans – efforts that disproportionately strip books about LGBTQI+ communities, communities of color, and other communities off of library and classroom shelves. In fact, 2022 saw the highest number of book bans in 20 years. Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQI+ people and other communities face.”
Book bans increased 40% in 2022 over 2021 and 41% of banned and challenged books contained LGBTQI+ characters or content, including the most banned book: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, which is a graphic memoir of the author’s gender and queer identity exploration.
Two groups responsible for a significant number of book challenges–Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education–assert that they are empowering parents to take control of their childrens’ education.
No Left Turn in Education explains, “We believe that K-12 education should be free from indoctrination and politicization. Radical teachings motivated by a political agenda and deliberately spread by teachers, administrators, school board members, and even state officials have infiltrated schools across the nation. Unfortunately, all too often words such as diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, systemic racism, human rights education and health education concealed an aggressive, radical totalitarian ideology. From The 1619 Project, to Critical Race Theory, to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), the goal is to overturn our society by sowing divisiveness and hate. The social unrest that erupted in May 2020 provided the perfect cover for a complete assault and takeover of our educational system. Aided by the mainstream media, the teachers’ unions, together with an increasing number of educators and administrators have become the true schoolyard bullies, using taxpayer funds to indoctrinate their captive audience – our children.”
Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, counters that the bans are “a way of telling young gay and transgender persons that they don’t belong in school, that they don’t belong to the community. It sends a message to the LGBTQ community as a whole that they’re not considered full citizens with full rights to participate in community institutions like the library.”
1. Should parents or other adults be able to ban books from public schools and libraries? Why or why not?
2. Should the federal government have a say whether books should be available or banned from public schools and libraries? Why or why not?
3. What do you think about books with “controversial” topics, including race, gender and sexuality, being available in your school and libraries? Explain your answer(s).
Kiara Alfonseca, “How Conservative and Liberal Book Bans Differ amid Rise in Literary Restrictions,” abcnews.go.com, Jan. 12, 2023
Matt Lavietes, “Over Half of 2022’s Most Challenged Books Have LGBTQ Themes,” nbcnews.com, Apr. 25, 2023
Moms for Liberty, momsforliberty.org (accessed June 12, 2023)
No Left Turn in Education, “Mission, Goals & Objectives,” noleftturn.us (accessed June 12, 2023)
Manuela López Restrepo,” Book bans Are Getting Everyone’s Attention — Including Biden’s. Here’s Why,” npr.org, Apr. 25, 2023
White House, “FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Actions to Protect LGBTQI+ Communities,” whitehouse.gov, June 8, 2023