New Massachusetts Bill to Reduce Book Bans

A new Massachusetts bill will allow school library teachers to have a voice in what books are banned in their libraries.

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Books with police tape in front of them.

A teacher in Massachusetts was questioned by police and had her room searched because of a book about gender identity. Thankfully, school librarians are defending themselves with the push of a bill.

Trusting The Librarians

Weeks after police searched a classroom in Great Barrington for an illustrated book about queer identities titled Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Professionals from the Massachusetts Library Association, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Boston Public Library, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Family Institute, and Massachusetts teachers all gave testimonies to the Joint Committee on Education on how book bans affect teachers and parents. The bill in question would allow certified school librarians the ability to choose materials for libraries.

Bonnie McBride, a teacher librarian at Fenway High School with a master’s degree in library science, explained to lawmakers that school libraries do not contain pornographic books.

These bills will provide security so the school librarian can focus on creating the best library possible, rather than worrying about book bans that erase the identities, ideas, and experiences of our students. By supporting these bills, you are showing us that you trust us as school librarians so that we can continue to create joyful communities of readers.

Bonnie McBride
Book cover for Gender Queer which depicts a person looking at themselves in a reflection.

What will the bill do?

The bills currently in the House and Senate protect the rights of the students to receive information determined as appropriate for inclusion in school libraries by school librarians. A school committee vote can overrule the selections after a public hearing and a review committee. According to the bill, the vote must be based on “clear and convincing evidence” that the material in question does not have “any educational, literary, artistic or social value or is not age appropriate for any children who attend the school.”

Republican state Representative Kelly Pease shared his thoughts during the testimony and read a passage from All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, a young adult non-fiction book, that depicts a gay sex scene. He said the decision should remain with school officials but that librarians should prioritize LGBTQ+ books about relationships over sexually explicit materials. Pease later admits to not reading the whole book and only reading 20 pages of Gender Queer before deeming them both unfit for school libraries.

Book cover for "All Boys Aren't Blue" which depicts a person wearing a flower crown.

This bill will still allow books to be challenged but will leave the decision to a school committee. The committee will decide if the books in question provide educational, literary, artistic, or social value that is appropriate or not appropriate for any student in the school. In short, the bill would not look at whether the book is appropriate for some students but would instead look if the book is inappropriate for any student.

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