As talks of banning books in school districts have become more popular across the country, Pennsylvania is at the top of the issue.
According to PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States, Pennsylvania ranks #6 with a total of 27 instances of book bans between July and December of 2022 – Ranking third in the nation just prior to that.
We first reported on book banning this year when during a Punxsutawney school board meeting, a board member proposed the idea of banning certain titles from a googled list of banned books. Those books include The Kite Runner, The Hate U Give, and The Handmaid’s Tale. All three books are part of a course offered at the school called “Contested Literature.” Students wishing to participate in the class require parental consent.
Most recently the school board was met with mixed public comment, some reading graphic excerpts from school library books, others speaking out against censorship and in support of intellectual freedom. The school board responded by saying the district is going to be investigating a process that involves the parents more in the educational suitability of books for their own students within the next school year.
“School librarians are teachers, So, teachers in schools have worked with parents all the time. So, parents already have a voice for their own children. If a parents sees a book that they don’t want their child reading, they can contact their school librarian and that school librarian can make a note in the circulation system and not have that child read particular books. We’ve done this forever. We’re teachers, we contact parents.”
Punxsutawney is just one of many school districts in the commonwealth debating policy on book bans. Heading the debate is Central Bucks School District, the third largest in the state, where two LGBTQ+ books were banned from the school library just this month – the first books banned under the district’s new policy which was reviewed by a conservative Christian law firm, the Independence Law Center, prompting the legal involvement of the ACLU.
“Our role as an educator and as a school librarian is to defend the student’s right to access school library materials as well as our professional integrity as school librarians for access to all information for all students, We look at the collection and what’s relevant for student’s ages, reading levels, as well as representing that wide range of perspective and background but we realize too that some parents are the parents and they may not find those reading materials relevant for their child We listen to parents and they do have a voice, but they have a voice for their own child. They do not have a voice for every child at the school.”