Skip to content

New Fab: Banning Books

By Sara Slayter, Opinion Editor 

In December 2022, PENNCREST school board held a meeting that opened a conversation on draft Policy 109.2, Library Materials. The draft adds words like sexualized, inappropriate, nudity, simulations of sex acts and implied depictions of sexual acts and other terms to describe how decisions will be made about books already in the library as well as books that might be considered for the future. 

This meeting provides a snapshot of what is going on in the world of book bans. All over the United States book bans have become more common since politicians have said the talk of racism, sexuality, and mental health are topics that are too mature for younger readers. This has led to a thundering amount of school districts, including PENNCREST, to open the discussion of what is appropriate for students to read.

PENNCREST school board member David Valesky shared a list of eleven books at the Dec. 8 meeting that he said contained, “garbage” and are already in PENNCREST high school libraries. 

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin shares the stories of six transgender teens and what they went through when transitioning. Another book called, Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany Jackson, is about the disappearance of Monday Charles and what are the effects of this on her best friend, Claudia. These books both have strong messages that range from gender identity to abuse. Others books on the list include Looking for Alaska, by John Green, and Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult. Books like these tell stories that can help readers who are experiencing difficult situations, even if they’re not exactly the same. They can also give insight into hard topics that create more empathy.

Being told what is inappropriate and what is not in the context of reading material in a public school is restrictive. 

Mr. Valesky’s list has 11 titles. This list will only get bigger with time and may include more books that other school districts are banning. But the fact remains that no one should tell someone what they can and cannot read–only because it is seen as inappropriate to them. 

Interestingly, LGBTQ books seem to be subjected to more opposition than other genres.  During the PENNCREST meeting, there was a speaker who described banning books as necessary  “to stand up for traditional family values.” PEN America reported that 41% of books being banned in America are LGBTQ+ related.

Texas, of all 50 states, has banned over 800 books. That is more than any state in the United States. Second is Florida, with over 500 books targeted. LGBTQ+ youth are already suffering with multiple bills that ignore them completely (Don’t Say Gay). Now, their voice is being silenced in the world of books in the name of traditional values.

Another question that should be asked is, what will happen to school libraries (and libraries in general) if the trend continues? Attacks on books because of content have increased dramatically in the last two years. The American Library Association reported that in 2021,1,597 books have been subjected to banning efforts. This is the highest number the ALA has seen in 20 years. Libraries across the country are experiencing surges of books being questioned for appropriateness.  

So what’s at stake here? When you find books that you relate to, it is disheartening to know that you may never get to read them because someone who is not a trained librarian decided that the content is inappropriate. It’s frustrating to know that younger students may not have access to the stories that make you think and question what others go through. Each story is being told for a reason, and getting rid of those stories makes it harder to understand and relate to the characters being told in the story and their human experiences. 

It’s also a question of access. “You can just get the materials somewhere else” has been used to satisfy those who may complain about books being removed or not purchased. This is untrue. Many students lack a way to access public libraries as well as the money to buy books. 

So I’m writing to exercise my First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Reconsider draft Policy 109.2. 

(Sara Slayter is a senior at Saegertown and a second-year journalist. You can reach her at saslayter@penncrest.org.)

pantherpress View All

NewsMedia Program of Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: