Meet the Coalition Fighting Book Bans in SC – Charleston Post Courier | Team Cansler

Legal and social justice advocacy groups have joined forces to fight South Carolina’s skyrocketing number of attempted book bans.

The Freedom to Read coalition was formed in October to help local communities fight back calls to ban certain books that are found across the state. Its membership includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the SC Association of School Librarians, and 15 other organizations.

People who try to ban books from South Carolina school libraries often argue that they contain explicit or age-inappropriate material. In Beaufort County, in late October, the school principal decided to pull 97 titles from library shelves after a small group of parents claimed they contained pornographic scenes.

The rise in attempted book bans reflects national trends. The American Library Association reported that there were 729 attempts to censor library resources in 2021, the most since the organization began tracking them over 20 years ago.

The association expects the number to be higher this year. As of August, there had been 681 attempted book bans targeting 1,651 books.

Joshua Malkin, a law and policy attorney for South Carolina’s ACLU, said what’s happening in the Palmetto State cannot be separated from what’s happening nationally.

“National talking points about porn in libraries are seeping through, people are saying the exact same thing wherever you go,” he said.

He first heard about attempted book bans in areas like Greenville and Pickens counties. He was contacted by the SC Association of School Librarians, who confirmed his fears that this was happening everywhere.

The ACLU decided to gather information about the attempted book bans and distribute it to its affiliates across the state. The county-level branches of these organizations then provide support to those who wish to speak out against the proposed bans in county council, school, and library committee meetings.

Jace Woodrum, executive director of the South Carolina ACLU, called the bans a direct violation of the First Amendment.

“We call on policymakers to stop this blatantly unconstitutional censorship,” she said Oct. 27. “Like a book or not, agree with it or not, none of us have the power to supersede the values ​​enshrined in the First Amendment.”

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Controversial parental rights group Moms for Liberty is increasing its influence in SC

According to PEN America, a literary and human rights organization, the country’s most banned book titles in the 2021-22 school year included “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison.

They also contained many books with LGBTQ content, including Gender Queer: A Memoir, which topped the list of most banned books after being pulled from 41 districts. Gender Queer is a graphic novel, a type of literature that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund says is particularly vulnerable to book bans because a single panel can be taken out of context.

In November 2021, Gov. Henry McMaster asked the SC Department of Education to investigate books in public school libraries after parents in Fort Mill complained about “gender queer.” A cursory inspection would have revealed that the book contained sexually explicit and pornographic descriptions that met or exceeded the legal definition of profanity, he wrote in a Nov. 10 letter to State Education Inspector Molly Spearman.

In September, McMaster sent a letter to the Charleston County School Board requesting that the county prohibit students from teaching gender identity without parental consent. He sent the letter after learning that students at one of the district’s middle schools were asked to read an article by a 16-year-old about his gender identity journey entitled “I Am Leo.”

One group campaigning for some of these book bans is Moms for Liberty, a national parent rights organization. One of the founders, Tiffany Justice, said in a recent interview with The Post and Courier that they’re not necessarily trying to ban books, but are urging children to read those they think are age-appropriate. She compared it to age restrictions for movies and video games.

They also don’t want children reading books they believe violate state and federal obscenity laws, saying books containing explicit sexual material have no place in schools.

Banned Books Week to explore the

Tamara Cox, president of the SC Association for School Librarians, said Oct. 27 that librarians are highly trained in evaluating and selecting quality books that meet state curriculum standards.

“Many of these attempts at censorship are coordinated by politically motivated groups outside of education and target books written by or about people of color or other marginalized groups,” she said.

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consequences Hillary Flynn on Twitter @HillarySuzane.

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