I am a #FReadom fighter who believes fundamentally that students deserve to see themselves reflected on the shelves of the library. As our culture becomes more aware, open, and inclusive, our students do too, and they expect and hope to see themselves reflected in their own schools and in books in their libraries. Recently, my colleague Becky Calzada reminded us in an interview with CNN:
“Growing up in South Texas, Calzada says she didn’t see herself represented in books as a young girl. ‘I grew up reading the “Trumpet of the Swan,” and “Little House on the Prairie,” I mean there were no Hispanic girls,’ Calzada said. ‘That’s a disservice to kids and so we work really hard as librarians to make sure that kids have books that they can see themselves in.'”
How it started
How it’s going. . .
In this pandemic moment, we believe literacy is urgently important, and time spent fighting inflammatory rhetoric is time not being spent on helping our students catch up after a year of remote schooling. Our goal should be supporting schools and libraries, who are gainfully trying to help our children be successful after such a difficult pandemic.
I applaud the librarians who are freadom fighting around the country, who face pressure from within and without, and those community members and school district leaders who are supporting their fight. Thank you for all you do, each day, to support your students.
Some practical items to note:
- The Supreme Court (Island Trees v. Pico, 1982) protects students’ first amendment rights, noting that libraries are a place of voluntary inquiry, and items cannot be removed from the shelves just because they are controversial.
- The Texas Association of School boards issued a legal guidance for school districts, indicating that “Once a resource has been made available in a school library, removal of the resource implicates students’ First Amendment rights. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark 1982 decision, the First Amendment rights of students may be “directly and sharply” implicated by the removal of books from the shelves of a school library. Bd. of Educ., Island Trees Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982).
- Every district in Texas has a “reconsideration process” when a book is challenged, which requires assembling a committee(usually composed of teachers, librarians, administrators, students, and parents) who read the book in its entirety and consider how it fits within the district’s selection policy. (Most districts have policies asking libraries to present various sides of controversial issues, books for different maturity levels, etc.). District board policies can be found on the school district’s website, under “Board” and the Texas policies are labeled Instruction Materials, EF Local.
As Vonnegut, whose books were challenged in the Island Trees case, so aptly said,
“Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
And so it goes…
Intellectual freedom is the underpinning of democracy and something we must all fight for, no matter our beliefs, because it is what separates a democracy from other forms of government. We may choose to disagree, but trying to squelch the voices of those who disagree, or whose lives are different from our own, is a dangerous trend. As these book challenges continue to spread, we must all remember the role a library has to play in intellectual freedom. (For more quotes about intellectual freedom, check here!)