Last November, Glenn Youngkin was elected the governor of Virginia. A huge point of contention during the race was the fact that Youngkin wanted to ban Toni Morrison’s book Beloved from Virginia schools. Shortly after Youngkin’s win was announced, Texas legislators released a list of books that would be removed from schools. The trend of book banning spread like wildfire. States such as Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee have implemented bans that largely prohibit books by Black and LGBTQ+ authors from being in public schools.
Last week in Tennessee, a school board banned the book Maus, a graphic novel about the treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust. The school board deemed the book too violent. Educators and students alike are angry about this ban, calling it a form of censorship and an infringement of freedom of speech. Maus is a book about history, and educators are in discussion about whether or not students should be learning “real” history or a censored version of it.
On one side, a writer for the Atlantic claims that school boards across the country are “getting rid of books that spotlight bigotry.” On the other side, some say that providing students with resources could help them learn about how to use their words to fight back against bigotry.
Books about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ children and teens are written largely for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ teens. People outside of those communities can benefit and learn from these books, but people within those communities can use these books, aimed to represent their experiences, as mirrors for their own identity.
Another journalist followed the story of a young girl who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and how the books in her school library brought her solace during difficult times. The article emphasizes that most people advocating for the book bans are not the students, nor the teachers but the parents.
The parents at school board meetings are not an isolated experience. The “parent’s rights” movement began a little over half a year ago, and it has grown tremendously. A movement originally started to advocate for better learning and education has turned into outrage over “Critical Race Theory,” a college-level theory that is not taught in K12 schools. Parents claim that the books getting banned contain sexually explicit content, insisting that LGBTQ+ relationships are inherently explicit and too mature for school libraries. Parents are also planning future runs for the school board, despite many parents having no experience or background working in education.
As more parents’ rights groups form and grow, and as more books get banned, the burden of advocating for students falls largely on educators and the students themselves. Middle schoolers are planning walkouts, sit-ins and writing articles about the impact of book bans on their lives. Teens are creating book clubs to read banned books because banning something can spark curiosity about it. Book bans are affecting students, parents and educators, but only time will tell who comes out at the top of this fight.