The American Library Association framed recent efforts to remove alleged sexually explicit content from school libraries as a “record number” of attempted “book bans” in two decades.
Material written to show sexually explicit and pornographic images to children have been uncovered in recent years at government school and public libraries, prompting drives from conservative lawmakers and parents to remove the content. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), for instance, recently pushed to remove volumes such as “Let’s Talk About It,” which shows graphic depictions of how children can masturbate, as well as “Gender Queer,” which includes cartoons of homosexual activity.
Officials from the American Library Association nevertheless issued a press release on Wednesday claiming that the number of demands to “censor library books” has nearly doubled between 2021 and 2022. Some 58% of the requests “targeted books and materials in school libraries,” while 41% “targeted materials in public libraries.”
“We’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media,” American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone said in the release. “Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color.”
The American Library Association did not mention that the proposed book removals centered on the alleged sexually explicit nature of the materials. The entity has garnered criticism for recommending “Gender Queer” and similar content to teenagers who attend public schools.
Legacy media outlets nevertheless framed their reports upon the American Library Association’s interpretation of the events while making little to no mention of the alleged pornographic nature of the content which parents and officials have sought to ban. One article from Axios parroted the organization’s contention that the “vast majority of the targeted books were written by or were about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color,” while another article from the New York Times said that the books “have become a proxy in a broader culture war over issues like LGBTQ rights, gender identity and racial inequality.”
As Republican officials in conservative states seek to remove sexualized content from shelves, prominent Democrats have likewise interpreted the controversy as a threat to free expression. “All books should be in the library,” first lady Jill Biden declared in a recent interview. “All books. This is America. We don’t ban books.”
Parents who voice concern over sexual content to their school boards, however, are frequently censored or punished with other sanctions. Stacy Langton, whose children attend Fairfax High School in Virginia, was told that she could no longer enter the school’s library after she made national news for reading several sexually explicit books available to students in front of school board members.
Social justice activism in the education system occurs as an unprecedented number of families removed their children from public schools in response to nationwide lockdowns, which granted parents an intimate look at their children’s educational environments. Homeschool enrollment grew 30% between the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 school years, according to a recent study published by the Urban Institute, showing that the move toward home education persisted even after government schools returned to conventional instruction.