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Updated: Since the publication of this story, the Wentzville School Board rescinded its earlier decision to ban Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”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

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.


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.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

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 Court Backs School That Barred Student's 'Two Genders' Shirt
The court said the shirt could be understood to demean transgender and gender-nonconforming students, and administrators could prohibit it.
5 min read
ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman, left, and Liam Morrison speak at a press conference following oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on Feb. 8, 2024.
David Cortman, senior counsel and vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, left, and middle school student Liam Morrison speak to reporters following oral arguments over Morrison's "There Are Only Two Genders" T-shirt before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston on Feb. 8, 2024.
Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom
Law & Courts Federal Judge Overturns New Hampshire Law on Teaching 'Divisive Concepts'
The judge holds that the law is unconstitutionally vague because it does not make clear to educators what topics they may not teach.
4 min read
Students walk into the front doors at Hinsdale Middle High School, in Hinsdale, N.H., on the first day of school on Aug. 30, 2022.
Students walk into Hinsdale Middle High School, in Hinsdale, N.H., in August 2022. A federal judge has struck down a New Hampshire law that bars the teaching of "divisive concepts" to K-12 students.
Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Turns Down Case Challenging School District's Transgender Policies
The case involves a policy allowing information to be withheld from parents considered not supportive of a gender-transitioning child.
3 min read
This Oct. 4, 2018, photo shows the U.S. Supreme Court at sunset in Washington. The Supreme Court has declined to take up an appeal from parents in Oregon who want to prevent transgender students from using locker rooms and bathrooms of the gender with which they identify, rather than their sex assigned at birth.
This Oct. 4, 2018, photo shows the U.S. Supreme Court at sunset in Washington. The court has declined to take up an appeal from parents in Maryland challenging a school district's policy on gender-support plans for students.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Law & Courts District Can Deny Opt-Outs on LGBTQ+ Books, Court Rules
Religious parents objected to a Maryland district's policy ending opt-outs for elementary school 'storybooks' with LGBTQ+ themes.
5 min read
A pedestrian passes by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Courthouse, June 16, 2021, on Main Street in Richmond, Va.
A person walks near the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's courthouse in Richmond, Va. A panel of the court denied an injunction seeking to restore religious parents' opportunity to opt their children out of LGBTQ+ "storybooks" in a Maryland district.
Steve Helber/AP