Parents have filed a lawsuit on behalf of two students against Missouri’s Wentzville School District for removing books about LGBTQ+ people and communities of color from libraries. They are represented by the ACLU of Missouri in a class-action lawsuit the organization has described as the first of its kind.
The legal action comes as a response to the school district’s removal of the following books: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson; Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel; Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero; Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon; Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell; Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison; Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg; and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
ACLU of Missouri sues Wentzville School District over Banned Books.
“School boards can’t ban books because the books & their characters illustrate viewpoints different of the school board” – Anthony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy of ACLU of MOhttps://t.co/PezABMBErz
— ACLU of Missouri (@aclu_mo) February 16, 2022
The lawsuit cites infringement on the student’s first amendment right to the access of knowledge and points out that “although at least ten percent of the District’s student population is non-white, the [school district] Board is all-white.”
According to the Equality Federation, seven states so far have introduced bills to restrict LGBTQ+ topics in schools. Research by St. Louis Public Radio found that in Missouri two-thirds of library bans focused on books by POC or LGBTQ+ authors.
Under normal circumstances, a book that is being challenged will remain in the library until it is voted for removal. But the Wentzville School District has a policy of immediate removal once a complaint is brought, making it easy to censor books for any reason.
Tony Rothert, director of advocacy for the ACLU of Missouri, said in a press release, “School boards cannot ban books because the books and their characters illustrate viewpoints different of those of school board; especially when they target books presenting the viewpoints of racial and sexual minorities, as they have done in Wentzville.
“The first amendment protects the right to share ideas, including the right of people to receive information and knowledge. We must protect this right, including educators’ and students’ rights to talk and learn about race and gender in schools.”
The Wentzville School District told St. Louis Public Radio that it was aware of the lawsuit but declined further comment.