• Monday, July 15, 2024

Book Bans Increasing Rapidly in Schools Nationwide: P.E.N. America Study

Over 75 percent of the over 1,500 book deletions that P.E.N. documented during the last six months of 2022 were motivated by coordinated efforts or due to new laws.
on Apr 21, 2023
Book Bans Increasing Rapidly in Schools Nationwide: P.E.N. America Study

According to a recent study from the free speech group P.E.N. America, book bans are increasing quickly in school districts nationwide due to new rules and regulations restricting the kind of literature kids may access.

According to P.E.N., the number of incidents of books being taken out increased from 1,149 in the preceding six months to 1,477 from July to December 2022. Using press reports, records requests, and publicly accessible information, the organization has tracked more than 4,000 instances of book deletions since it started keeping track of bans in July 2021.

According to the study, new state laws mandating schools to check all of their reading materials for potentially harmful content have resulted in widespread book deletions that P.E.N. could not document. Hence, the statistics need to reflect the scale of the efforts accurately.

The statistic also misses the quick change in book limits into what many groups supporting free expression see as a worrying new stage: An rising number of book bans are the result of coordinated efforts by elected politicians or activist organizations, whose decisions can have an impact on a whole district or state.

Over 75 percent of the over 1,500 book deletions that P.E.N. documented during the last six months of 2022 were motivated by coordinated efforts or due to new laws.

According to research by EveryLibrary, a political action group representing libraries, seven states approved legislation last year that places restrictions on library materials, including Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Utah. This year, the organization is keeping tabs on 113 pieces of legislation that it claims will harm libraries or restrict people's ability to read.

Director of the free expression and Education at P.E.N. America Jonathan Friedman declared, "This is much bigger than you can count." People need to realize that a set of concepts are being threatened virtually everywhere, not simply one book that is being banned in one school system.

The American Library Association recently published a report that revealed that efforts to censor books nearly doubled in 2022 over the previous year and reached the highest number of complaints since the association began studying censorship efforts more than 20 years ago. P.E.N.'s analysis follows similar findings from that report. 

The organization discovered that more and more simultaneous book challenges are being brought against several titles. In the past, complaints about a particular work were frequently sent to libraries and schools.

"We've had two record-breaking years, and those of us who are fighting book bans really have our work cut out for us," said Christopher Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. We are currently engaged in an uphill battle.

Advocates for free expression are concerned not only by the rapid increase in book bans but also by the novel manner in which books are being attacked. Up until very recently, the majority of book deletions happened when a parent voiced concerns to a teacher or librarian about a particular title. After a school board or committee assessed the content and decided if it was suitable for pupils, complaints were normally handled privately.

With the emergence of organizations like Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United, created to protest Covid-19 limitations, this started to alter during the epidemic. These organizations began to concentrate on the subject matter of school curricula and libraries.

Members of these organizations began requesting the removal of particular books at school board meetings and disseminating online lists of books they considered unacceptable.

Due to the growth of these networks, some books were being targeted across the nation, frequently ones that focus on L.G.B.T.Q. Themes or address racial inequity. Additionally, the discussion of what constitutes proper reading for pupils has become more politicized and acrimonious. Teachers and librarians have been charged with encouraging pedophilia, and others have lost their jobs or resigned under duress after standing their ground and refusing to remove books.

The new restrictions, according to P.E.N. and other free speech advocacy organizations, have a chilling impact.

In Florida, where the State Legislature passed a law mandating that all books in classrooms and libraries be evaluated by a certified media specialist, some districts advised schools to restrict access to all the titles until they could be vetted, leading to empty library shelves in some schools. Similarly to this, after Tennessee passed the "Age Appropriate Materials Act," which mandated that schools catalog every book in their classrooms and libraries to ensure that there was no inappropriate content, some teachers opted to remove or cover up their entire classroom libraries rather than risk breaking the law.

This week, Tennessee lawmakers took it a step further and enacted a bill that would punish book distributors and publishers with harsh fines for supplying obscene content to public schools. In a statement, P.E.N. urged Gov. Law Lee to veto the law, contending that its only objective is to coerce publishers into practicing self-censorship.

According to P.E.N.'s investigation, book removals were concentrated in a small number of states despite book bans occurring in 21 states and 66 school districts. Texas had the most removals with 438, followed by Florida with 357, Missouri with 315, Utah with over 100, South Carolina with over 100, and Florida with over 400.

All around the nation, many of the same titles are being targeted. "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe, "Flamer" by Mike Curato, "Tricks" by Ellen Hopkins, a graphic novel adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, and "Milk and Honey," a collection of poems by Rupi Kaur, were among the publications that received the most bans last year.

Friedman remarked, "I do fear we're losing sight of how unique this is. "Book banning is becoming the norm in many places,"

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