WASHINGTON, D.C. — More states are challenging or banning certain books in schools and universities nationwide.
The American Library Association (ALA) says these books are typically about racial equity, have minorities as protagonists or address LGBTQ+ issues.
Some members of Congress are reviewing how this effort at the state level is impacting free speech in our schools.
Several high school students told lawmakers that the books being banned or challenged silences the perspective of minorities.
“I want to learn about my friends even if I disagree with them. I want us understand one another but right now my intellectual freedom and other students’ intellectual freedoms are not being supported or fought for,” said Shreya Mehta, high school student from Richland, Washington.
They believe these books can help students address diversity and even reduce bullying.
“A slideshow presentation at the beginning of the school year telling kids to be kind is not enough,” said Christina Ellis, high school student from York County, Pennsylvania. “These books can help educate kids on various cultures and ways of life and we need to rely on our trained educators to handle teaching these difficult and hard topics.”
The American Library Association recorded more than 700 challenges to remove nearly 1,600 books from public schools, libraries, and universities last year.
The organization says that was the highest number of attempted book bans in the 20 years that it’s been tracking this information.
Some lawmakers say banning books is censoring First Amendment protections in schools, but others believe parents should have input on the type of books their children read.
Some panelists say a similar censorship issue is happening on college campuses with overly broad speech policies.
“Overly broad speech policies where basically offensive speech is forbidden and if offensive speech is forbidden, there’s a lot of things you can’t talk about basically anything that’s controversial in our social lives, so they use biased response teams to enforce this which allows any member of the campus community to file a complaint,” said Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
The American Library Association said its list is just a snapshot of banned books because more 80 percent of book challenges aren’t reported or don’t make it onto the news.
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