Fight for the First
When we think of banning books, we tend to think of large, overt actions involving book burning in the vein of Kristallnacht or Fahrenheit 451. But book banning is now far more covert and insidious. Actions such as Idaho House Bill 139 are full frontal attacks on censorship, but the most recent "shadow ban" of books carried out by the West Ada School District last Spring and the Kuna School District this week are becoming more and more normalized. These "shadow bans" involve the silent removal of books from the shelves or restricting access through movement of books from the public shelves to behind the desk.
The list sent to the Kuna School District from Idaho Legislators removed books from the shelves without any sort of formal review of the content or titles, in much the same way that the Nampa School District did last Spring. Does the Idaho Legislature have the right to usurp the power and authority from the educated teachers and librarians and don the cloak of "moral outrage" in these matters? Does the Idaho Legislature have the right to decide what our children have access to without the input of ALL parents and students in the district?
No, it does not. Government sanctioned censorship flies in the face of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. And THIS is government sanctioned censorship.
"Shadow banning" and Idaho HB 139 instills fear in teachers and librarians. Rather than challenge books in the court of public opinion and follow the already designated guidelines for book review, the fear of retribution or financial punishment forces the hand of teachers and librarians to limit access to materials. In no way does this support the First Amendment, nor does it provide opportunities for parents, teachers, librarians, and students to evaluate books and resources in light of their own individual needs and expectations.
These "shadow bans" involve books with stories about POC and LGBTQIA+ and those stories deserve to have a place in our schools and libraries. Students have the right to see themselves in books no matter what and everyone deserves to have access to these stories through our public institutions. It is the responsibility of a public institution to represent ALL voices, not just some. These institutions are funded through public money paid by the citizenry of Idaho and we deserve to have our stories available to everyone.
How can we the citizens and taxpayers of Idaho take action?
Sign the Idaho Library Association "Fight for the First: Let Idaho Read! Vote NO on HB 139" petition.
Contact your district legislator. Write a letter, send an email, make a phone call. Not sure who your legislator is? You can find out here.
Talk to your friends, neighbors, teachers, librarians, and family about this issue.