Originally published in the Springfield News-Leader June 23, 2022.
Editor's note: The News-Leader made the rare decision to grant anonymity to the writers of this opinion piece. We did that because the authors are minors and because at least some of them are members of vulnerable groups.
This school year, 17 books were challenged at our high school in Nixa, an exponential increase compared to the single challenge in the prior two decades. Feeling the new wave of “cancel culture” infringing on our First Amendment right to access information, fellow students mobilized. We spoke against the challenges at school board meetings, held public silent protests, and organized online. However, the school board ignored our voices and voted to remove two books (All Boys Aren’t Blue and Fun Home) and to require parental permission (Homegoing).
It is vital for high school students to hear an array of perspectives and learn about controversial and challenging topics in the world, including abuse, sexual assault, gender identity and racism. As young adults who have come of age in the wake of daily mass shootings, a global pandemic, and extreme political division throughout our country, we are mature enough to read and understand the complexities of life. Suppressing these discussions allows ignorance to flourish.
It is no coincidence that not one current Nixa student spoke in support of the book bans. As students, we recognize the importance of exposure to complicated issues and the amplification of diverse perspectives. The school board's removal and restriction of books devalues our opinions and efforts to keep books in our library. However, we refuse to let our voices be silenced because we are not simply fighting for books. We’re fighting for the safety and value of every student who has felt unseen, unheard or unwelcome.
Nixa has a growing number of minority and LGBTQ+ students with all types of backgrounds and experiences. In a school where diversity and inclusion initiatives are virtually nonexistent, the presence of every book makes a difference for underrepresented students. The books currently facing criticisms depict unique stories and perspectives, from coming-of-age stories where protagonists discover their identities to fictional works that integrate the history of oppressed groups. The belief that the books in question cause irreparable harm and are obscene is untrue.
None of these books contain dangerous content. Banning books perpetuates the notion we are too immature to handle complex material. If book banners believed in protecting us, then they would act to address violence and discrimination in our schools rather than silencing our thoughts and ideas.
Book bans infringe on our First Amendment rights, which protect access to information and ideas. It is no mistake that the restricted books are by non-white and/or LGBTQ+ authors. The insight gained from these books helps us empathize with different experiences, leading to a better understanding of our peers and safer environments to discuss complex issues. The loss of those factors causes more damage than any content in these books. It is our right to choose what we read. We demand that the school board remove all restrictions and return the books to our library shelves.
Three Juniors at Nixa High School.