The "Critical Race Theory" panic was always cover for destroying public education, and now we have Republicans openly ordering school libraries to take their collections back to 1950.
School districts from Pennsylvania to Wyoming are bowing to pressure from some conservative groups to review — then purge from public school libraries — books about LGBTQ issues and people of color.
Why it matters: A pivotal midterm election year, COVID frustrations and a backlash against efforts to call out systemic racism — driven disproportionately by white, suburban and rural parents — have made public schools ground zero in the culture wars.
What they're saying: "I've worked for this office for 20 years, and we've never had this volume of challenges come in such a short time," Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, told Axios. "In my former district, we might have one big challenge like every two years," Carolyn Foote, a retired Texas librarian of 29 years, told Axios. " I have to say that what we're seeing is really unprecedented."
Details: The Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia in November ordered staff to remove “sexually explicit” books from libraries after a parent raised concerns about their LGBTQ themes. “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” school board member Rabih Abuismail said during a meeting.
That same month, the Goddard School District in Kansas demanded staff remove 29 books from the district’s school libraries. The list included “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison.
The Washington County School District in Utah voted last month to ban “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Pérez, two novels tackling racism, following parent complaints about profanity. The superintendent cast the deciding vote.
Texas school districts are scrambling to review and ban some library books after state Rep. Matt Krause, a former candidate for state attorney general, asked school superintendents to confirm whether any books on his list of 850 titles were on their shelves.
By the numbers: The ALA has not yet released a full accounting of its data for banning attempts in 2021, but Caldwell-Stone said the ALA tracked 330 challenges just from September through November 2021 and hasn't tallied all the titles yet.
In 2020, amid the new pandemic and remote schooling, it cited 156 challenges to library, school and university materials and services, and the targeting of 273 books. In 2019, it tracked 377 challenges to materials and services, and the targeting of 566 books.
The top target both years was "George," by Alex Gino, a novel about a transgender girl. "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You," by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi was last year's second-biggest target.
ALA classifies a book as "banned" if a school or library removes it from circulation or if a district outlaws it from lessons.