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Kansas City Public Library condemns push to ban, censor books in schools

·3 min read

Kansas City Public Library strongly condemned the push in schools in Kansas City’s Northland, Cass County, across the metro and beyond to censor and ban books and literature in a letter on Wednesday.

“Books should not be excluded or eliminated from shelves based on the origin, background, or views of their authors,” The library wrote in the letter. “The growing number of Americans eager to work against these ideals is alarming, because a well-read and informed population is vital to a free and balanced exchange of ideas among its members — an ability critical to the continued success of our union.”

The statement from the library came after students in the North Kansas City School District last week spoke out against recent efforts by a Northland parent group to remove books from the school library. The students urged district leaders not to be swayed by attempts to censor reading that speaks to race and LGBT issues.

Parents across the Kansas City metro area have attended school board meetings in droves since early November, arguing that the content of certain books were inappropriate for high school students. Two of the books banned from North Kansas City school library shelves — “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson and “Fun Home,” by Alison Bechdel — centered around stories of Black and, or LGBTQ youth.

Kansas City-area schools have violated their own policies by removing the acclaimed books “Fun Home” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” from libraries.
Kansas City-area schools have violated their own policies by removing the acclaimed books “Fun Home” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” from libraries.

The Northland Parent Association, a local nonprofit representing parents from Clay and Platte counties, has been on the frontlines of the local push to ban books. The group, which has also sued over district mask mandates, deemed the books to be too “pornographic” in recent school board meetings, pushing others to protest their acceptance on school library shelves.

The district said it was reviewing two books, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Fun Home,” which have been pulled from the shelves of the district’s four high schools.

In its statement, the Kansas City Public Library, urged that “a diverse collection” of reading be made available to young readers. The library insisted that reading for information and interest is a fundamental right and warned against restricting children’s access to books concerning marginalized communities.

“We offer this reminder: Within the pages of a book, we not only see ourselves and feel less alone, we also gain perspective on those whose lives are nothing like our own,” the statement read.

The library said that its position against banning or censoring books is rooted in respect for the First Amendment and the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, which requires librarians to protect reading collections from removal based on bias or prejudice and empowers them to guard the “right to read” regardless of an author’s background.

Earlier this month, students in Kansas City’s Northland launched a petition in an attempt to stop area school districts from banning books in school libraries. About 1,097 people have signed one by students at North Kansas City school as of Nov. 30.

This push to ban books in schools is not unique to Kansas City. The governors of Texas and South Carolina have weighed in, supporting bans of books exploring LGBTQ stories in schools.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster urged education leaders to remove a book on gender identity from schools, calling it “obscene and pornographic.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican legislators similarly wrote letters to the Texas Education Agency, asking them to examine how 850 books covering sexuality and race were being used in schools in late October.

School boards in Virginia also began pulling LGBTQ books deemed “sexually explicit” from district library shelves in early November.

So far, about 32 books are in danger of being permanently removed from schools according to the petition created by the Northland Students Association.

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