Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate introduced a resolution to denounce a sweeping campaign to censor and remove books and learning materials from libraries and classrooms across the United States.
A resolution proposed by U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin and Senator Brian Schatz would call on local governments “to protect the rights of students to learn,” according to a draft first reported by Politico.
The measures come as a growing effort among right-wing groups to censor school materials and libraries across the United States — mostly involving LGBT+ issues and honest discussions about race and racism — has led to more than 2 500 cases of legislative or policy action to ban individual books, affecting 1,648 titles in total, in the past year.
Congressman Raskin, who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Liberties, called the wave of book bans a “direct attack on First Amendment rights and should alarm all Americans who believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental pillar of our democracy.
The resolution invokes the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Board of Education vs. Picowho held that First Amendment protections limit the ability of schools to censor materials in a “narrowly partisan or political manner.”
It calls on schools and local governments to enable students “to read a wide range of books reflecting a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives”.
A recently released report by free speech organization PEN America estimates that at least 40% of proposed bans between July 2021 and July 2022 are related to legislation or “political pressure” from state and local authorities, affecting at least 32 states.
These campaigns are linked to at least 50 groups pushing for broad book bans at the national, state and local levels, according to the report.
Of those groups, including dozens of local chapters, 73% — or 262 — started in the past year alone.
At least 20% of book bans are directly linked to these groups, although PEN America estimates that another 30% were likely influenced by them.
A separate American Library Association report released last week found 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, with 1,651 titles targeted among them, in the first eight months of 2022.
More than 70% of these attempts targeted multiple titles. The vast majority of censorship efforts in previous years “only sought to suppress or restrict a single book,” according to the ALA.
In remarks during a House committee hearing on book bans and school censorship earlier this year, Congressman Raskin warned that the challenges for libraries and school supplies mean “dozens thousands of teachers, librarians and administrators”. [will] spend hundreds of thousands of hours reviewing these books to implement a censorship regime.
“The vast majority of the books targeted by the censorship are not compulsory or part of the students’ reading program. They are books of choice – students can pull them off the shelves if they wish and consult them. Or they can ignore them altogether,” he said.
Otherwise, the “normal” processes for selecting programs and libraries are “completely different from people’s moral panic over the use of such and such a word or passage in a book, and then demanding its removal from a library. or his banning from a school,” he added. .
“Most of the books targeted by the censorship are books that introduce ideas about diversity and our common humanity, books that help teach children to recognize and respect each other’s humanity,” Raskin said. . “This of course radically underestimates the powers of empathy, compassion and solidarity that all children possess. ease, a far-fetched, unenforceable, and unjust principle that goes against America’s embrace of free speech.
The Independent Gt