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District That Banned LGBTQ Books Relents After Pressure From Students, ACLU

The North Kansas City School District had sought to ban books by Alison Bechdel and George M. Johnson but backed down.

A school district in Kansas City, Missouri, has retreated from a policy of banning LGBTQ-themed books after a group of students and other organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — demanded an end to the practice.

The North Kansas City School District, responding to complaints from parents, removed two books earlier this year: All Boys Aren’t Blue, a book by George M. Johnson that recollects his experience as a queer, Black teenager, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a book about her experiences with her father who she later learns is gay.

In a letter sent directly to the district, the ACLU said that students had the right to access these books.

“Students must be free to access library books — without discrimination or censorship — that are LGBTQ+ affirming as well as books that provide an inclusive and accurate history of racism,” the letter from the organization read.

The matter was discussed at a school board meeting on Monday evening, where over a dozen students from the district spoke out against the district’s actions.

Parents who take issue with these or other books shouldn’t be able to dictate what students who are not their children can have access to, these students said.

“I see no wrong in telling your child not to read a book,” one of those students said, according to a report from local television station KMBC. “However, to tell every child that is a violation to the rights of students.”

The district relented as a result, and agreed at the meeting to return the books to the shelves of the high school library.

The victory in the North Kansas City School District is emblematic of right-wing challenges many districts, school administrators and teachers are facing across the country, as conservative parents wage complaints over books in school libraries that teach or discuss experiences from Black and/or LGBTQ persons. Many LGBTQ advocates are trying to counter attempts to suppress these books and narratives, including students, teachers and librarians themselves.

Writing for Truthout earlier this month, author Henry A. Giroux, who is also the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department, explained that such book bans, which are being pushed by Republican politicians, are “vehicle[s] for white supremacy, pedagogical repression, excision and support for curricula defined by an allegiance to unbridled anti-intellectualism and a brutal policy of racial exclusion.”

“The banning of books in the United States, which bears a dangerous resemblance to the Nazi book burning, represents a startling vision of the Republican Party’s disdain for democracy and its willingness to resurrect totalitarian practices linked to earlier periods of censorship, repression, terror and state violence,” Giroux said.

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