Kansas City – The ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Independence School District to end its policy of automatically removing library materials, including books, after receiving a challenge before any review or vote has taken place. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several students in the United States District Court in the Western District of Missouri.
The policy that triggers the automatic removal of a book upon any challenge is Board Regulation 6241(c), which states, “Media being questioned will be removed from use, pending committee study and final action by the Board of Education, unless the material questioned is a basic text.” The automatic removal allows for books to be removed on any basis, including because of viewpoints expressed in the material, without providing an appeal process which violates the First Amendment and Due Process rights of students because it restricts their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose and without any prior notice.
The lawsuit comes after the removal of the book, Cats vs. Robots Volume 1: This is War, on April 25, 2022. The challenge form submitted by a parent stated only “non-Binary discussion chapter” as the basis for the complaint.
“Equity in our education system is further eroded when the government sets policies that require challenged books to automatically be pulled from shelves without notice or an opportunity to appeal the final decision, denying students their First Amendment and Due Process rights,” said Gillian Wilcox, Deputy Director for Litigation with the ACLU of Missouri. “Across the state, from school boards to law makers and other officials, we have seen a coordinated effort by the government to censor books in both school and public libraries, especially those authored by and featuring the perspectives of people and communities of color, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups.”
Missouri students have experienced an increase in attacks to their First Amendment rights over the past two years. The Secretary of State recently submitted a proposed rule that would withhold funding from public libraries in his own attempt to promote and evoke censorship. The legislature and Governor enacted Senate Bill 775, which has also given rise to the unconstitutional removal of hundreds of books from library shelves throughout the state.
Previously, the ACLU of Missouri challenged the Wentzville School Board for a similar policy that requires the automatic removal of books upon the receipt of a challenge.
Read comment submitted in opposition to the Secretary of State’s proposed rule, 15 CSR 30-200.015.