ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) — For many, books provide an escape from reality or a safe space to learn about other lives, cultures, and identities.
Yet parents like Libbi Simms fear that pupils are now losing the opportunity to learn from the books on offer in classrooms and school libraries.
“Every parent has the right to determine what their child can read, but that right only extends to their children, not everyone,” said Francis Howell School District parent Simms. “And personal beliefs shouldn’t dictate what all students in the district have access to.”
On Sunday, a new Missouri law went into effect that bans books containing “sexually explicit material” on public and private school campuses. This means books with images depicting sexual acts or genitals.
“There is a description of what sexually explicit means, but there is also an exclusion for artistic representation, which makes it very suggestive and problematic legislation,” said Grace Hagen, director of operations and inclusion. at Novel Neighbour. bookstore in Maplewood.
A spokesperson for the St. Charles County Parents Association (SCCPA), which has strongly supported the settlement under SB 775, was unable to provide an interview today, but they have shared a statement in response to questions about the new law.
It reads in part:
“What we’re talking about here is keeping material and influences inappropriate for children from those children. Unfortunately, we have grown adults who instinctively don’t know that showing an elementary school student a book about gay or straight sex acts is not their role or calling as an educator, so laws limiting their ability to to do so are necessary. It was simply an extension of existing laws because, unfortunately, bad actors in the education system do not want to follow the law.
However, Hagen fears the law will create more panic than good, as educators and libraries could face fines or even jail time if they break the law.
“What it came up with, even just this morning, in contact with some of the school librarians that we worked with, is librarians running around,” Hagen said. “Spending one of the first weeks of school trying to figure out what they need to do to not go to jail or to avoid a fine and balance that with their values of providing books for children.”
Districts such as Parkway, Mehlville and Rockwood have already pulled some graphic novels from their shelves in response to the legislation.
“I’m concerned that schools are self-censoring beyond even what the laws say because they don’t want a lawsuit or rocking the boat,” said Parkway School District parent Mandy Michel. . “And as a result, my children’s education will be watered down.”
Rockwood released a statement following its decision to remove certain books from district libraries. It reads in part:
Rockwood librarians and administrators in our Programs Department carefully reviewed our collections in light of the new legislation and consulted with our legal team to identify books containing images that may meet the definition of “explicit sexual material” under of section 573.550, RSMo. These books have been withdrawn from circulation and the list has been posted on the department’s website ensure transparency with all stakeholders.
Rockwood’s compliance with state law does not change our vision to provide a wide range of reading materials to meet the needs of all students and our goal of universal equity, opportunity, and access described in our strategic plan, The Way Forward. Our libraries contain over 450,000 titles for students to choose from from K-12, and we will continue to ensure that all students are represented in our library collections.
The SCCPA says “school boards, teachers, and librarians should focus on improving educational outcomes, not sexualizing young children”, and says “far too many ‘educators’ are failing”.
Hagen disagrees, saying librarians know how to manage what’s age-appropriate and what’s not.
“Librarians are experts in this area, to know what to recommend, and this book might not be recommended to a freshman, just as books for freshmen will not be recommended to juniors in high school,” she said.
Hagen says 15 of the 22 books now banned in the Rockwood School District feature queer stories and/or people of color. That leaves parents like Simms worried that sexual images might not be the only things that will be censored as a result of this legislation.
“It’s coming, we’re going to ban other things, we’re going to bring this to public libraries, and it’s a slippery slope,” she said.
“It’s not going to keep those images or worse of children. It’s just going to take away the care that librarians provide with it,” Hagen said.
Here’s what districts are telling News 4 about what they’re doing in response to the state’s new law:
Removed the following books from the District shelves:
Batman: White Knight by: Sean Murphy
Be gay, make comics by: The Feather
love bingo by: Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge and Joy San
Fire Force Vol. 1 by: Atsushi Okubo
Flame by: Mike Curato
Gender Queer by: Maia Kobabe
Gilgamesh by: Andrew Winegarner
Handmaid’s Tale (Graphic novel) by: Renée Nault
Home after dark by: David Small
Let’s Talk: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being Human by: Erika Moen
Lighter than my shadow by: Katie Green
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by: Kriten Radtke
Sex More by: Laci Green
Sumomomo Momomo: World’s Strongest Bride Vol.1 by: Shinobu Ōtaka
supermutant magic academy by: Jillian Tamaki
The Good Earth (graphic novel) by: Nick Bertozzi
The Sacrifice of Darkness by: Roxanne Gay
the stranger by: Jacques Fernandez
The sun and its flowers by: Rupi Kaur
watchmen by: Alan Moore
Why comics? by: Hillary Chute
Zahra’s Paradise by: Amir Soltani & Khalil
Removed the following books from the District shelves:
Handmaid’s Tale (graphic novel version) by Margaret Atwood
Fun Home (graphic novel) by Alison Bechdel
Are You My Mother (Graphic Novel) by Alison Bechdel
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe Blankets (graphic novel) by Craig Thompson
Mehlville – “In response to new state law, we have removed the following books from our libraries/catalogs:”
Be gay, make comics
The Handmaid’s Tale (graphic novel)
St. Louis Public Schools
They tell News 4 that no books have been removed and there has been no discussion yet about removing books.
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