Missouri: Book Banning Is On the Rise

Missouri: Book Banning Is On the Rise

Political battles over book are heating up in Missouri. This seems to be the right time to ban books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Slaughterhouse Five. Will Fahrenheit 451 be banned too? Why is it missing?

The Missouri law on banning books was enacted in August. Missouri law 775 sets the guidelines, starting on page 51. The law prohibits books with visual representations of sexual activity a.k.a. pornography. It is a very specific definition.

Legislators visual representations only (not “art” or “anthropological”). They lost the CRT battle and needed something like this in law. They avoided the battle over the written word and content, just pictures. Graphic novels took the hit. Teachers and any school adult can be charged for distributing a censored book.

The conservative strategy is get the door open for book banning and then it will swing wide open to written word and content this year.

In one high profile district, the students are the ones who released the information of what was being pulled from shelves.

Below are four articles – St. Louis Post Dispatch (with lists) and KC Star

Of course, there were no guidelines from the State.

KIRKWOOD — About 15 parents and students spoke out Monday against the Kirkwood School District’s recent book bans, including a comic book adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984,” the cautionary tale about government mind control.

At least 114 book bans have been enacted in schools across St. Louis this fall in response to a new state law prohibiting “explicit sexual material” — defined as any visual depiction of sex acts or genitalia, with exceptions for artistic or scientific significance — provided to students in public or private schools.

‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’: KC area schools now ban these books and more BY SARAH RITTER UPDATED OCTOBER 03, 2022 9:39 AMhttps://www.kansascity.com/news/local/education/article266556371.html#storylink=cpy

ST. LOUIS — The 97 books banned in schools across St. Louis this fall cover topics like anatomy, photography and the Holocaust. There are books that are also popular TV series, including “Game of Thrones,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Walking Dead” and “Watchmen.”

And as life imitates art, Kirkwood School District banned a comic book adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984,” the cautionary tale about government mind control.

JEFFERSON CITY — With a new crop of hard-right Republicans expected to join the Missouri Senate, some Democrats are worried that the upper chamber’s priorities will swing more to the right in the next legislative session.

Conservative wish list items such as bans on transgender student athletes and legislation that targets school curriculum have failed to pass in previous years amid infighting among Republicans. But Senate Democrats say those policies could have enough momentum in the coming years with more hard-right members joining the upper chamber.

For months now, a handful of books dealing with LGBTQ themes have been targeted by Kansas City area conservative parent groups and politicians.

Conservative groups have demanded the removal of books on LGBTQ themes from public school libraries, but the censorship is expanding to other titles that someone finds objectionable. The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, has no LGBTQ content. It’s about a dystopian society in which women have no rights. But it’s being pulled from library shelves, and librarians are facing stiff fines if they defy the law.

But facing a new Missouri law, some schools have now removed a much wider array of books from library shelves, including “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Watchmen” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The law, which bans sexually explicit material from schools and went into effect in late August, is tucked into a larger bill addressing sexual assault survivors’ rights. Librarians or other school employees who violate the law could be charged with a misdemeanor, risking up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

In response, several school libraries have pulled at least 20 book titles in districts on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro, according to reports provided to The Star through open records requests.

The legislation specifically prohibits images in school materials that could be considered sexually explicit, such as depictions of genitals or sex acts. As a result, most of the banned books are graphic novels. The law does provide some exceptions, such as for works of art or science textbooks.

Proponents argue the legislation will protect children from inappropriate content and indoctrination. “In schools all across the country, we’ve seen this disgusting and inappropriate content making its way into our classrooms,” state Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said in a statement after the legislation passed. “Instead of recognizing this as the threat it is, some schools are actually fighting parents to protect this filth. The last place our children should be seeing pornography is in our schools.”

But others warn that such bans violate students’ First Amendment rights and mainly target books that feature LGBTQ relationships, people of color and diverse viewpoints.

“You don’t see people trying to ban any books that are on the far conservative end. So I think at this point, what we’re seeing is a kind of protracted political strategy,” said Joe Kohlburn, chair of the Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee. “It feels very targeted to folks who identify as LGBTQ, or (people of color) or women. If you see your library is removing ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ that tells you something very specific. And I don’t think that’s an accident.”

Before the bill’s passage, conservative politicians, action committees and parent groups in the Kansas City metro spearheaded challenges to school library books, mostly featuring racially diverse or LGBTQ characters. It’s a trend seen across the country, with the American Library Association reporting that the number of attempts to ban or restrict books this year is on track to exceed last year’s total, which was the highest in decades.

Librarians have raised concerns over harassment, with some questioning whether to stay in their jobs. Tom Bastian, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, called the book challenges an attempt to “whitewash viewpoints and perspectives of historically marginalized communities.”

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