I didn’t expect to be writing another post on book banning this soon, but fellow blogger Renee Roberson mentioned a book that parents at a charter school had attempted to ban. As I looked into that case, I realized banning has moved into the courtroom and even state legislatures.
The case Renee mentioned involves the award winning novel in verse The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. John and Robin Coble filed a North Caroline suit demanding public schools not be allowed to teach books that provide “an alternate path to liberation and meaning in life.” They felt the book challenged their Christian belief system. Fortunately, the court ruled against them stating that it is in the school’s interest to introduce students to challenging ideas. The couple had complained to their son’s teacher, who then supplied an alternate book, but the Cobles still took the matter to court. Find links to stories about this here.
In Virginia, a resident filed a petition asking the court to find two books “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” The books are Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, told in graphic novel form, and the fantasy novel A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The judge agreed the books were most likely obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors. The authors and publishers had to file legal documents defending the books. If the judge rules against them, minors attending Virginia Beach Public Schools or going to Barnes and Noble would need parental permission to get these books. Due to the wording of the original law, every school district, library, or book seller throughout the state that carries these books could be required to comply or face penalties. Read more about this case here.
But wait, there’s more. Law makers are also getting in on the book banning action.
Business Insider reported in February that no less than 9 state legislatures were debating bills to restrict students access to media. In Oklahoma, the bill would ban all books that teach about gender or gender identity. It would also allow parents to file a request for removal. If the book is not removed in 30 days, the school can be fined $10,000/day.
The Iowa bill prohibits the use of obscene material or “hard-core pornography.” Offenders would face jail time and fines. The South Dakota bill prohibits material that promotes any divisive concept. Granted, not all bills are this extreme. A bill in Georgia provides pathways for parents to report material to the district for review and if they don’t like the response details that they move on to the school board. You can read this article here.
Not every bill is extreme, but there are bills that call for fines for school districts and jail time for teachers. Is every book right for every reader? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean that one couple should be able to criminalize allowing minors access to a certain book. Again, be aware of what is going on in your community and your state. You may be surprised to find a connection. The publisher of Gender Queer was based in my metropolitan area.
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers. To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.
The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on September 4, 2022). Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.
Sue is also the instructor for Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 4, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 4, 2022).