Book Removals May Have Violated Students’ Rights, Education Department Says

The U.S. Department of Education said a Georgia school district may have removed certain books from its library, creating a “hostile environment” for students based on race, gender and national origin, and violating their civil rights. announced that there is

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether the Forsyth County school violated student rights and announced a settlement on Friday.

In a letter to Forsyth County school principals, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stated that in the fall of 2021, the school district will be notified by some parents that library materials contain sexually explicit or LGBTQ content. He said he began receiving complaints that Ultimately, the school district responded by removing some of the books. Katherine E. Ramon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, said some students felt targeted by the discussion about the removal of the books.

The district took steps to “seek to adhere to non-discrimination policies,” but those measures were not enough to deal with the hostile environment, she said.

“When we removed the books, there was a lot of discussion in the school community about which books to remove, and the books that were removed were by LGBTQI+ people and by people of color. I saw it,” said Ms Ramon. she said. “Students felt threatened when they heard the message.”

The Department of Education said the school districts agreed to take certain steps as part of the settlement, including conducting student surveys on school environments and subjecting them to ongoing monitoring by the Civil Rights Administration.

Forsyth County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Caracciolo said in a statement that the district is “committed to providing all students and their families with a safe, connected and thriving community.” By implementing the OCR recommendations, we will further our mission to provide unparalleled education for everyone’s success. “

The Department of Education’s engagement with Georgia marks an important step in the Biden administration’s efforts to remove books and highlights just how strong a national political issue book bans have become. Recently, President Biden referred to the book ban as a new threat to American civil liberties. video Announced a second term campaign.

“We are witnessing this issue of book removal and book banning escalate across the United States, and we are asking all school communities to have a federal citizenship not to operate a hostile environment based on the race or gender of their students. It’s important to remind people that they have rights and obligations,” Ramon said. “We are ready to enforce these laws.”

Over the past two years, free speech groups have tracked a surge in book bans across the country, spurring a coordinated campaign to remove books on specific subjects from school districts and libraries.

PEN America counts more than 4,000 book removals since it began tracking the ban in July 2021. A recent report from the American Library Association found that efforts to ban books in 2022 nearly doubled from the previous year, reaching a record high. The organization has been observing this situation since it began collecting data on book bans over 20 years ago. The groups said most of the books involved were LGBTQ-themed works or characters, or works that dealt with race or racism.

Opponents of book removal have expressed concern not only about the surge in bans, but also about the methods used to challenge books. In the past, book protests often came from concerned parents, but now much of it comes from the organized efforts of conservative groups such as Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United. It is subject to statewide laws that make it easier to remove books.

In recent months, protests by those against the removal of books have begun to take shape. In Llano, Texas, after a group of residents sued the county and library staff for removing books that were unconstitutional and violating residents’ First Amendment rights, a federal judge ordered the county to ban 17 books. I ordered the book to be returned to the library.

In Illinois, the legislature passed a bill that withholds subsidies for libraries that have removed books or refused to adopt a policy of banning books.

Last week, PEN America and publisher Penguin Random House, along with a group of authors and parents, filed a lawsuit against the Florida Board of Education and school district over the removal of the books.

“We must not teach children in democracies that books are dangerous,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement about the lawsuit. “Freedom to read is guaranteed by the constitution,” she said.

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