Librarians Harassed in El Paso, TX; 'Heather Has Two Mommies' Back in the Spotlight | Censorship Roundup

As censorship efforts continue, here's a look at some of the latest developments in schools and public libraries around the country.

EL Paso, TX: Canutillo Independent School District in El Paso, TX, determined that Gender Queer: A Memoir is age-appropriate and should remain in high school libraries. A panel for the district voted to keep the book available for high school students, KVIA News reported. One member of the panel said, “The memoir provides information that can guide our LGBTQ students to gain confidence being themselves, therefore making them happy, productive individuals. Banning the graphic novel would invalidate the mission statement.” The school district’s superintendent said parents are harassing school faculty, according to the KVIA story, which quoted superintendent Pedro Galaviz saying, “Our high school librarian has been threatened, harassed. People are calling up saying, ‘You’re a pedophile. This is porn. You should go to hell.’”

Oklahoma: A proposed bill in the Oklahoma state legislature would lead to the firing of school employees if a book is not removed within 30 days of a parent submitting a written challenge to the title. The law also states that districts would pay parents $10,000 per day for every day after 30 that the book is not removed, according to Fox23 News. Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, Senate Bill 1142 states: “No public school district, public charter school, or public school library shall maintain in its inventory or promote books that make as their primary subject the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.”

If the school employee charged with removing the book doesn’t do so within 30 days, they would not only be fired but denied employment in the state’s public schools for two years, according to the bill, which is scheduled to be officially introduced to the legislature in early February.

Bucks County, PA: Pennridge School District in Bucks County removed Heather Has Two Mommies, a book by Lesléa Newman first published in 1989, from all district elementary school libraries. The title was relocated to the guidance counselors’ office, according to reports. A school leader also sent an email to elementary school principals and librarians warning them that all books about gender identity must be removed from library shelves, WHYY reported on Dec. 26. In the December email, Anthony Rybarczyk, Pennridge School District assistant superintendent of elementary education, said the books must be removed from the shelves and placed in a separate area where school counselors and administrators can provide them to parents or guardians upon request. “It’s 1992 all over again,” Newman tweeted on Dec. 21. The American Library Association ranked “Heather Has Two Mommies” the ninth most challenged book in the 1990s.

Wake County, NC: In mid-December, Wake County Public Libraries (WCPL) confirmed to Spectrum News 1 that it had removed Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir from all library branches in the system. A library system spokeswoman said the book “does contain explicit illustrations that do not align with WCPL’s selection policy.” The decision to remove the book from the county’s library collection comes after parents in Wake County filed criminal complaints with the sheriff’s office about Gender Queer and other books in the county’s high school libraries. Fifty-five Wake County librarians signed a letter from “Wake County Free to Read” saying librarians should have been included in the decision-making process about the book, WRAL reported. That Dec. 29 story also said WCPL selection manager Daniel Brooks said he is putting together a group of librarians to develop a new process for collection development and book removals.

Clay County, FL: Clay County District Schools has removed All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson from its libraries after a parent complained about the themes in the book. The book was removed from one of its school libraries on Dec. 8 "based on board policy and state statute" after a review process, according to WJCT News. Public schools in Flagler County, FL, also removed the book from their libraries in early December. A Flagler County School Board member filed a criminal complaint in November about sexual material in the book. The Flagler County Sheriff's Office determined that the presence of the book in high school libraries did not constitute a crime, WJCT News reported. A Flagler County school committee unanimously found the book “appropriate for use” and to be available on library shelves. But Flagler County Public Schools superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt ordered the book removed from all school libraries. “So the superintendent in Flagler county went against the school board decision and officially banned my book today,” Johnson tweeted on Dec. 7. “I guess we are off to court cause I refuse to let this go.” Two books about racism and one about sexual assault were also removed from schools in Flagler County this year, but have been returned to the shelves, according to a report.

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