Students Sue Missouri School District Over Book Bans

The ACLU of Missouri on Tuesday filed a lawsuit on behalf of two students against Missouri’s Wentzville School District over recent book bans, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The class-action lawsuit accuses the district of removing books based on the “dislike of the ideas or opinions contained in the books by policymakers, school officials, community members, or a combination of those.”

The lawsuit claims the book bans violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “by restricting their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose.”

The lawsuit says the district has banned school libraries from carrying “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson, “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon, “Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari.

It also voted last month to ban “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

Lawsuit accuses groups:

The lawsuit claims that the book bans are part of a “targeted campaign by the St. Charles County Parents Association and No Left Turn in Education’s Missouri chapter to remove particular ideas and viewpoints about race and sexuality from school libraries.”

Parents from the groups filed challenges to the books that have been banned.

“School boards cannot ban books because the books and their characters illustrate viewpoints different of those of school board; especially when they target books presenting the viewpoints of racial and sexual minorities, as they have done in Wentzville,” said Anthony Rothert of the ACLU said in a statement.

“The First Amendment protects the right to share ideas, including the right of people to receive information and knowledge,” he said. “We must protect this right, including educators’ and students’ rights to talk and learn about race and gender in schools.”

Book bans expand:

The New York Times recently detailed new book bans in Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Tennessee targeting books mostly focused on race.

“The politicalization of the topic is what's different than what I’ve seen in the past,” Britten Follett, the CEO of the book supplier Follett School Solutions, told the Times. “It’s being driven by legislation, it’s being driven by politicians aligning with one side or the other. And in the end, the librarian, teacher or educator is getting caught in the middle.”

“By attacking these books, by attacking the authors, by attacking the subject matter, what they are doing is removing the possibility for conversation,” said author Laurie Halse Anderson. “You are laying the groundwork for increasing bullying, disrespect, violence and attacks.”


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