Book Bans Rising Rapidly in the U.S., Free Speech Groups Find

School districts across the U.S. are rapidly banning books due to new laws and regulations that limit the types of books children can access, according to The New York Times. New report from PEN Americaa free speech organization.

From July to December 2022, PEN found 1,477 books removed. This is up from her 1,149 cases in the last six months. Since the organization began tracking his ban in July 2021, we counted his more than 4,000 instances of book takedowns using news reports, public records requests, and public data.

Some states require all reading material to be scrutinized for possible offensive content, leading to mass removals of books, PEN reported unable to trace the book says.

The statistics also fail to capture the rapid evolution of book restrictions, which many free speech groups see as an alarming new phase. It is increasingly being driven by a variety of initiatives, and their actions can impact districts and entire states.

Of the nearly 1,500 book removals tracked by PEN in the last six months of 2022, the majority (nearly 75%) were due to coordinated efforts or new laws.

Last year, seven states, including Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Utah, passed laws imposing restrictions on library materials, according to an analysis by the Every Library, a library political action committee.This year the group is tracking 113 bills The country will adversely affect libraries and restrict people’s freedom of reading.

“This is a lot more than you can actually count,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. You have to understand that it’s not a book, but a set of ideas that are under threat everywhere.”

PEN’s analysis follows similar findings from a recently published American Library Association study. The association says efforts to ban books in 2022 have nearly doubled year-on-year, reaching the highest number of complaints since the association began studying censorship efforts more than 20 years ago. recently published a report showing The Society has found that more and more book challenges are now being filed against multiple titles at once. received.

Christopher Finnan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, said: “We’ve had two record-breaking years. Our job in fighting book bans is really hard.” And we are fighting an uphill battle.”

Free speech advocates are troubled not only by the sharp rise in book bans, but also by new ways in which books are targeted. Until very recently, most book removals occurred when parents raised concerns about titles to teachers or librarians. Complaints were usually settled quietly after a school board or commission evaluated the material and determined whether it was suitable for the student.

That has begun to change during the pandemic, with the rise of groups like Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United, which formed to fight against Covid-19 restrictions, to focus on school curricula and library content. Members of these groups began showing up at school board meetings, demanding the removal of certain books, and distributing online lists of objectionable books.

The rise of these networks meant that certain books—often titles centered around LGBTQ themes or addressing racial inequality—were targeted nationwide. Debate over what constitutes appropriate reading for students has also become increasingly political and acrimonious. Librarians and teachers have been accused of fostering pedophilia, and some have lost their jobs or quit under pressure because they refused to remove books.

PEN and other free speech groups say the new law has chilling effects.

In Florida, where the Florida legislature passed a law requiring a certified media professional to evaluate every book on a school’s classroom and library shelves, some school districts are asking schools to allow scrutiny. advised to restrict access to all titles until school. Similarly, after the passage of the Age Appropriate Materials Act, which requires schools to catalog all books in classrooms and libraries to ensure they do not contain inappropriate content in Tennessee. , some teachers Rather than risk breaking the law, they chose to remove or conceal the entire classroom library.

This week, the Tennessee legislature went even further, passed the bill Criminal prosecution and hefty fines will be imposed against book publishers and distributors for providing public schools with material deemed obscene. In a statement, PEN called on Gov. Bill Lee to veto the bill, arguing that it serves no purpose other than to intimidate publishers into self-censorship.

PEN’s analysis tracked bans in 21 states and affected 66 school districts, but found that book removals were concentrated in a small number of states. Texas had the highest number of removed books with 438, followed by Florida with 357 and Missouri with 315, while Utah and South Carolina each removed more than 100 books.

Many of the same titles have been targeted across the country. Last year’s most banned books included Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’, Mike Curato’s ‘Flamers’, Ellen Hopkins’ ‘Tricks’, Margaret Atwood’s graphic novel adaptation of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘Milk and Honey’. there is. A collection of poems by Rupi Kaul.

“I’m afraid we’re losing sight of how rare this is,” Friedman said. “Book bans are becoming the norm in many places.”

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