FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 22, 2021
KANSAS CITY – The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri today warned the North Kansas City School District that it must stop censoring library books. The organization’s letter comes after two LGBTQ+ affirming books were removed from the district’s library shelves. The school board is also facing calls from a small group of disgruntled parents to continue its purge by removing books that discuss racism.
The letter, which demands that the banned books be returned immediately, coincides with a meeting of the school board this evening. Nearly a dozen students are expected to address the board about the need for students to have access to the books even if they might offend a small cohort of pettish parents.
The ACLU explained to school officials that removing books from libraries violates students’ well-established constitutional right to receive information and ideas. It points out that the Supreme Court has held that school boards cannot censor library materials because they dislike or disagree with their content. The law is firmly established and cannot be ignored by school leaders.
“Students must be free to access library books—without discrimination or censorship—that are LGBTQ+ affirming as well as books that provide an inclusive and accurate history of racism,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Luz María Henríquez.
The ACLU of Missouri is investigating complaints of similar illegal censorship by other school districts across the state.
“Censoring these books is an attempt to appease the irascible bunch seeking to inflame political passions at the expense of students’ opportunity to learn,” said Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri Director of Integrated Advocacy. “This is an instance when elected officials must stand up for the Constitution, not cave to a few boisterous extremists.”
In 2011, the ACLU of Missouri sued a school district in Camdenton, Missouri, that had deployed an Internet filter that blocked LGBTQ+-affirming content from being accessed on its library computers. The case resulted in a landmark district court decision applying to the Internet the Supreme Court precedents prohibiting the censorship of books. The school district was required to pay the plaintiffs’ $125,000 in attorneys’ fees.
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