Law & Courts

‘We Must Protect This Right': Students Sue School District Over Banned Books

By Kaitlyn Alanis, The Charlotte Observer — February 18, 2022 | Updated: March 01, 2022 2 min read
Books packed up in a cardboard box.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Updated: Since the publication of this story, the Wentzville School Board rescinded its earlier decision to ban Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”

Two students have partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri after they say eight books were pulled from the shelves of their school district libraries.

The eight banned books about race, gender and marginalized communities were pulled by the Wentzville district’s school board, according to a news release from the ACLU of Missouri.

“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, director of integrated advocacy with the nonprofit, in a statement.

See Also

Image of library shelves.
VTT Studio/iStock/Getty

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

The ACLU of Missouri filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Tuesday, Feb. 15, on behalf of two students by and through their parents. The students, a girl and boy, were identified by their initials: C.K.-W. and D.L.

A spokesperson with the Wentzville School District said the district is aware a lawsuit has been filed and it will not be providing a statement.

Lawyers with the ACLU of Missouri say the removed books are part of a “targeted campaign” by 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.”

The banned and “critically acclaimed” books include “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero, “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari and “Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell.

The books were all pulled from the district collections throughout the 2021-22 school year, with the latest being banned on Jan. 20, according to the lawsuit.

“The Banned Books engage their readers with a diversity of ideas and minority viewpoints, including with respect to race, gender, and sexual identity,” the attorneys say. “The District banned the books from school libraries because of the ideological disagreement members of the District’s school board and certain vocal community members have with the ideas and viewpoints that the books express.”

See Also

Screen Shot 2022 02 01 at 7.51.08 PM
Shutterstock

At least 10% of students enrolled in Wentzville School District are not white, the lawsuit says, though the school board is 100% white.

With the filed class action complaint, the plaintiffs seek the return of all copies of each of the banned books that were “removed in violation of the First Amendment,” a permanent injunction that remedies the “specific violations,” plaintiff attorney fees and other “further relief.”

A wave of school book bans has rippled across the U.S., The New York Times reported, as sex and race discussions in schools are challenged.

“The politicalization of the topic is what’s different than what I’ve seen in the past,” Britten Follett, chief executive of content at Follett School Solutions, which provides books to schools, 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.”

Wentzville is about 40 miles northwest of St. Louis.

Copyright (c) 2022, The Charlotte Observer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Leaked Abortion Draft Has Supreme Court Education Cases in Political Cross-Hairs
Conservatives have taken aim at decisions on educating immigrants, race in admissions, and religion. Liberals have some cases in mind, too.
8 min read
supreme court SOC
Getty
Law & Courts 'Brown v. Board' Cited in Draft Supreme Court Opinion to Back Overturning Abortion Rights
The leaked opinion in a case still to be decided by the Supreme Court cites landmark decisions including Brown v. Board of Education.
7 min read
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, Monday night, May 2, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico. It's unclear if the draft represents the court's final word on the matter. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which if verified marks a shocking revelation of the high court's secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided.
A crowd gathers outside the U.S. Supreme Court Monday night after the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the court intends to overturn the 1973 <i>Roe v. Wade</i> precedent that legalized abortion nationwide.
Alex Brandon/AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Rules Against Some 'Emotional Distress' Claims. What It Means for Schools
The dissenters say the decision means students cannot recover damages for the emotional harms of race, sex, or disability bias.
5 min read
Image of the Supreme Court.
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts Are Teachers Obliged to Tell Parents Their Child Might Be Trans? Courts May Soon Decide
Some administrators say outing a student could lead to child abuse or self-harm. Parents in court filings say they have a right to know.
12 min read
Illustration showing 4 individuals next to their pronouns (he/him, they/them, and she/her)
iStock/Getty Images Plus