School Book Banning Sweeps The Red States
DeSantis Will Have To Depend On More Than Just Pro-Book Banning Voters To Win
This GOP book banning mania has gotten out of hand. Yesterday I noticed that a new YouGov survey polled DeSantis proposals. None were very popular. One asked respondents if they approve “requiring all books available to children in public schools, including those selected by their teachers, to be separately reviewed by a media specialist (like a school librarian) for content the government deems inappropriate. Only 36% of respondents favor that policy. Independents are especially adverse to it (32% approve). The only demographic that got to 50% (that is exactly what they got to) was evangelicals.
But Meatball Ron's penchant for book banning has spread to other states with Republican Party governance. Yesterday, the Arizona Republic reported that Arizona’s state Senate had passed a bill that presumably would allow a parent to request that any book containing the words “he” or “she”— or “his” or “hers”— be forever banned from Arizona’s public schools.
Senate Bill 1700 is part of the Republican-run Legislature’s ongoing hysteria over the LGBTQ community and our leaders’ weird paranoia that teachers and librarians are secretly plotting to sexualize our children.
Either that, or it’s just a crass bid to pad their reelection bona fides as fully engaged, armed-and-at-the-ready culture warriors.
SB 1700 comes to us courtesy of Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, part of a new crop of far-right legislators who have come to the Capitol to cleanse our schools of anything that might offend her.
"I'm very proud of this bill," Wadsack said during Monday’s debate on the bill.
It’s certainly a stunner.
The bill would require the Arizona Department of Education to create and maintain a list of banned books that cannot be used in public schools. Any time any parent complained, ADOE would have to mount a full investigation.
The book then would be banned if it was found to be “to be lewd or sexual in nature, to promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns or to groom children into normalizing pedophilia."
But, as Arizona Mirror’s Jim Small pointed out, the bill doesn’t define “gender pronouns.”
Nor does it say anything about banning books with non-gender specific pronouns such as “they” or “them,” the ones often used by those in the transgender community.
Therefore, I’m assuming the goal of Wadsack and her fellow Republicans must be to ban any book containing gender-specific pronouns like “he” or “she.”
That’s a lot of books.
Of course, that’s not really their goal but that’s what the bill they just passed says.
…Her bill allowing a ban on books that use "gender pronouns" passed on a 16-12 party-line vote and now goes to the House (en route to Gov. Katie Hobbs' well-used veto stamp).
…Never mind that Arizona law already prevents schools from using or referring students to any material that is sexually explicit.
Or that the law already allows parents to have their children excused from any assignment they deem inappropriate.
Never mind that the law already requires school boards to hold public hearings before approving textbooks and other materials used in classrooms.
Or that school districts must, by law, post on their websites a list of all books and materials purchased for school libraries for at least 60 days after the purchase. Never mind, even, that this poorly drafted bill could be used to ban most of the books ever written, though I imagine math books would still be safe.
There are culture wars to be waged and there is Wadsack, right on the front lines with her trusty matchbook.
“This bill,” she proclaimed, “gives parents the ability to have a say in what their children read.”
Actually, this gives parents the ability to have a say in what other people’s children read.
Or, possibly bar them from reading anything.
Wild, right? Next door in Utah things are just as crazy, even crazier. Yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that one Utah parent, frustrated by the books being removed from school libraries “says there’s one that hasn’t been challenged yet, but that they believe should be, for being ‘one of the most sex-ridden books around.’ So they’ve submitted a request for their school district in Davis County to now review the Bible for any inappropriate content. ‘Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide,’ the parent wrote in their request, listing topics they found concerning in the religious text. ‘You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has no serious values for minors because it’s pornographic by our new definition.’ The code cited is the Utah law passed in 2022 to ban any books containing ‘pornographic or indecent’ content from Utah schools, both in libraries and in the classroom. It came after outcry from conservative parents groups, who have been pushing to have titles removed.”
Davis County, including suburbs north of Salt Lake City, is the smallest in the state but has the third biggest population, which is 90.04% white. The county didn’t go for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1948 when the majority of folks there voted for Truman. In 2020, Biden got just 33.1% of its vote, an improvement over the 20.5% Hillary got in 2016. The county sends 5 members to the state Senate and 10 to the state House. All 15 are Republicans.
The parent argues that Utah Parents United is “a white supremacist hate group” that is stepping on education and the freedom to access literature. They say that’s particularly worrisome in Davis School District, which has been “under investigation for being racist.”
Davis was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, which released a report in 2021 finding that the district intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years.
Utah Parents United responded to a request for comment from The Tribune on Wednesday, saying: “We believe in following the law. That’s all we’re asking schools to do.”
The group has previously said that its members are not challenging books based on race or LGBTQ relationships. But they have repeatedly targeted the same titles in school districts across the state, including The Bluest Eye by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and Gender Queer, a graphic novel about the author’s journey of self-identity.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who sponsored the bill to remove pornographic books from school libraries, called the request to pull the Bible “antics that drain school resources.”