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Brooklyn Library set to push books through red state bans

Oklahoma high school teacher quits after facing backlash for introducing students in the program. Now colleagues, students and community members are making signs in the yard, and children are wearing shirts at school to advertise the program with a barcode that links to the BPL website on phones. .

“The QR code has become – for lack of a better wording – it has become a symbol of resistance locally in my state,” Summer Boismier, a former English teacher at Norman High School, said in an interview. She says she quit in protest and her teaching license is now in jeopardy, after providing the code to students.

Supporters say they protect children from sexualized material, political indoctrination and concepts designed to make white students feel guilty. Critics, meanwhile, say the policy cools discussion of institutional racism and robs LGBTQ children of resources to better understand themselves.

Similar bans have been instituted in a push that has seen hundreds of titles shelved at nearly 3,000 schools in 26 states, according to free speech nonprofit group PEN America.

The group No Left Turn in Education, which supports some bans, says it opposes schools that impose “leftist orthodoxy”, as well as books containing sexually explicit images.

“School is not a playground for politicians,” said founder and president Elana Fishbein. “School is about educating children to give them the tools they need to succeed in life. … This should be neutral territory.

Restricting books isn’t new, but the bans — some statewide and others affecting only specific school districts — are increasingly part of a larger national clash over class discussions about racial and gender identity which has seen conservative activists push for money and candidates for school board positions. The right in particular has seized on education issues in the upcoming November election after Republican Glenn Youngkin’s promise to give parents more power over what their children learn in school propelled him to the sidelines. victory in Virginia last year.

But in Wisconsin, for example, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said in June that if he loses re-election in November, Republicans will ban books, especially those relating to LGBTQ issues.

Back in Oklahoma, Boismier’s departure prompted area parents to distribute flyers and t-shirts with the QR code that students wear to school. Heather Hall, owner of a local bookstore, said Books Unbanned had been a lifeline for her middle schooler, River, who uses they/them pronouns.

“How amazing that I’m in Norman, Oklahoma…I have my kid going through hardships in middle school and having access to these really nice people across the country,” she said.

Before the start of the school year, Boismier covered potentially violent books in his classroom with butcher paper that included the QR code for books not banned. This prompted a parent to complain that students could access “pornographic material”, including Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir” which explains what it means to be non-binary and asexual.

Boismier said she was initially told she was placed on administrative leave. But the school district denied that claim, saying she was never placed on administrative leave, suspended or terminated and that Boismier chose to resign.

Nick Migliorino, the superintendent of public schools in Normandy, recently said the parent alleged that Boismier made “disparaging and confrontational remarks” about state legislators during school hours and used his class “to make a political demonstration expressing its own opinions”.

Migliorino also said there were no violations of Oklahoma state law or state Department of Education rules and that the issue did not involve “books actually about the teacher’s shelves or the use of the public library’s QR code”.

The city, the third-largest in Oklahoma with a population of about 120,000, is considered one of the most moderate towns in the red state. Donald Trump nevertheless won the region by 14 points in the 2020 presidential election. The region also grapples with a dark history: until 1967, it was a “sunset city” that kept black people out of owning houses or even staying out after dark.

The Brooklyn liberal’s intrusion frustrates conservatives like Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, who says some books are unsuitable for children and wants Boismier’s license revoked.

“Rather than being more concerned with children and their development and is it appropriate for children at this grade level, they decided to take an ideological turn here – not an academic exercise – but an ideological one by pushing this into our schools,” Walters said in an interview.

The Brooklyn Library says that disseminating information is part of its core mission. And when more states began banning books from schools and libraries, the library system felt compelled to challenge them.

“We say this is what libraries do, we provide access to these materials,” said BPL President and CEO Linda Johnson. “Literature is such a powerful thing and it’s something that allows you to get to know yourself better, your world, it allows you to see new things and we believe that no one should be excluded from it, regardless of location. where he lives.”

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, lamented efforts by various states to silence LGBTQ people, as well as black, indigenous, and people of color. She called Oklahoma a nexus for legislative activity that seeks to suppress such books and “tightly control” the education of young people.

Fishbein of No Left Turn in Education says books such as Jelani Memory’s “A Kids Book About Racism” and Anastasia Higginbotham’s “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness” teach students to hate the United States.

Books Unbanned “has gone viral” since its launch in April, and the library has been inundated with more than 5,100 requests from teens nationwide, Johnson said.

The program is making inroads elsewhere in the country.

Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said he reverses efforts by conservative groups like Moms for Liberty who are leading book banning efforts, even though putting books in front of teens doesn’t slow them down necessarily.

“The library code doesn’t stop them from continuing to push these policies in an effort to disrupt schools,” said Capo, whose statewide union has 66,000 members, including educators, retirees and school employees. “Library code can, I would say, make them ineffective at keeping books out of children’s reach, absolutely.”

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas is the epicenter of the nation’s classroom book bans, having removed more texts this year than any other state.

In October 2021, state GOP Rep. Matt Krause asked schools across the state if they had any of the roughly 850 books on a list he compiled that focused on race and sexuality. Some school districts in Texas have started removing these books.

Lone Star State parents may also temporarily remove their students from classes or activities that they deem incompatible with their religious beliefs. They can also consult the didactic material and see the files of their pupils.

New York’s other public library systems—Queens Public Library and New York Public Library—have undertaken similar efforts to BPL. The NYPL, which serves the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, made prohibited materials free through its free e-reader app in April and May.

Tony Marx, president and CEO of the New York Public Library, said this is not about a “big city pushing a liberal agenda,” but about libraries doing their job of making knowledge and accessible information.

“What Brooklyn is doing is fabulous,” Marx said. “What each of us can do to help resist this effort to limit what the public can read is critical and…we must do all we can. The simple fact is that it is outrageous that this is happening.

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