A lawsuit in Florida aims to counter the growing trend of censorship in school libraries.
As The New York Times reports, a Florida lawsuit filed against the Escambia County School District and the Escambia County School Board hopes to have county restrictions on school libraries declared unconstitutional for targeting certain viewpoints. and for violating students’ right to receive information. The group behind the lawsuit includes publishing giant Penguin Random House, human rights organization PEN America as well as private citizens. With the number of book bans on the rise in several states, the outcome of the lawsuit is seen to have implications beyond Escambia County.
Vicki Baggett, a high school English teacher in Escambia, has launched a campaign to have the coming-of-age novel The perks of Being a Wallflower removed from school libraries for what she perceived as “descriptions of extreme sexual content” in May 2022. Her campaign having initially failed, Baggett expanded the list of books she wanted removed to a list of 116, including classics like Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and the Children’s Book Draw me a star by Eric Carle (who also wrote The hungry caterpillar), which contains rough depictions of nudity.
Lindsay Durtschi, a member of the Escambia County PTA and one of the parents behind the lawsuit against the bans, doesn’t blame Baggett. “The person to blame for this is Ron DeSantis,” she said, referring to the governor of Florida, who has spoken out on the fight against what he calls “woke indoctrination.” Durtschi added: “I don’t want my business to suffer. I don’t want my kids to be bullied. But if that’s what ends up happening, then I’ll tell everyone. I don’t I’m not one to keep my mouth shut.”
Record number of book bans filed in 2022
The lawsuit in Florida comes after a record year of book bans from school libraries. In 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) received 1,269 requests to censor library books, compared to 729 challenges in 2021. Among those bans were many comic books, including titles featuring Batman and the X- Men, and the Pulitzer Prize winner. Tale of the Holocaust Maus by Art Spiegelman, who was pulled from Tennessee programs due to concerns such as profanity, violence and nudity. The case made global news and helped the 30-year-old graphic novel re-enter several national and international bestseller charts.
The onslaught of book bans has already been picked up as a topic in pop culture. The phenomenon was satirized by The simpsons in a 2023 episode titled “Hostile Kirk Place” and South Park took the Maus ban specifically a year earlier. Best-selling writer Dave Eggers also promised to provide free copies of banned books to high school students in Rapid City, South Dakota in May 2022, and actor LeVar Burton encouraged the public to “read banned books ” on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in February 2022, among other examples.
Source: The New York Times