School Students Push Back Against Book Bans
By Julia Fitzpatrick
For the last few months, school libraries in Texas have been subject to immense pressure from parents and conservative politicians to remove certain books from school shelves. NBC News reported that a sample study of one hundred school districts in Texas revealed seventy-five requested removals of books from parents and locals in the community during the first four months of the school year alone, often against the wishes of librarians themselves. The books under scrutiny deal with issues of gender, race and sexuality.
The Katy Independent School District (KISD), which includes more than 80,000 students, has introduced a blanket ban on several texts. As well as parents, the bans are coming from Republican officials and lawmakers in the state. Governor Greg Abbott and State Representative Jared Patterson have pledged to ban “pornographic” texts, specifically targeting books which describe LGBTQ+ sexual experiences such as Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. Even Booker Prize winners are not safe in this culture war, with books like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale being named in Republic State Representative Matt Krause’s hefty list of 850 objectionable books. Texts which simply teach students their legal rights, such as The Legal Atlas of the United States, have not escaped Krause’s wrath either.
The bans have left students feeling marginalised and angry. High school senior Gabrielle Izu told the Texas Tribune that, as a bisexual teenager, the banning of books about gender and sexuality made her feel like her “identity was seen as dangerous.” Students are under no illusions about the motivations behind the removals, with Cameron Samuels telling the Tribune that “it’s clear that these books address issues of race and LGBTQ+ identities, and that is the exact reason that certain people are seeking to remove these books from libraries and prohibit students from accessing them.”
Teenagers have formed their own clubs to read the books which they can no longer find in their libraries. In KISD, with the financial support of publishers and political organisations, students have distributed hundreds of banned novels. In the Leander Independent School District, students have protested the bans at school board meetings. Above all, they feel a responsibility to stand up against censorship in the absence of adults doing so, with Samuels pledging to “take ownership of our education and not let others decide for us which resources we can access and which topics we can learn about.”