Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Parents fight to remove explicit books from school libraries


WORLD Radio - Parents fight to remove explicit books from school libraries

Parents demand laws and policies that make it easier to report and remove sexually explicit books in school libraries

Banned books at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, in New York City. Associated Press/Photo by Ted Shaffrey

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It:

The parents behind new policies in school libraries.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Now a quick warning for parents: some of what we are going to be talking about may not be suitable for younger listeners. So it might be well to hit pause or skip ahead until you’ve had a chance to review this. What you may find objectionable is about a minute away.

In recent months, states like Florida and Texas have issued school library book bans—or so some in the media are saying. You may have heard this kind of report.

CBS NEWS: A florida school district has pulled 176 books from its libraries to comply with the new state education reform law championed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

NAJAHE SHERMAN, CBS REPORTER: When it comes to banning books, Florida comes in second in the US. Only Texas has banned books more frequently than Florida's public schools.

RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS DIRECTOR: Republicans now are sensing that there's a lot of anger out there among parents of school aged children and that that is the kind of anger that crosses party lines.

EICHER: So who are these “angry parents,” and what exactly are they doing to get books banned? We spoke with WORLD’s Mary Jackson to learn more about what’s going on.

JACKSON: So the debate over what books are appropriate in school libraries has become supercharged in large part because parents started speaking up coming out of the pandemic, seeing what was going on in their kids classrooms, and becoming more aware of the books that their kids were being exposed to, and the word kind of spread. And more and more parents started reporting those books to their school districts, and initiating review processes or seeking to improve those that were already in place. So these parents have also been organizing campaigns and starting groups like moms for liberty.

REICHARD: Moms for Liberty: it’s a nonprofit parent/teacher group based in Florida that has chapters across the country. You may have seen videos of members reading excerpts from some of the so-called banned books at school-board meetings, including this one from a mom named Vicki Flannery. Now, I won’t play any of the explicit content, but I do want you to hear how Flannery finishes her presentation.

FLANNERY: “Do any of you—any of you—find this book that depicts a sexual encounter and rape acceptable for any minor, regardless of gender or sexual orientation? Because I do not find this at all acceptable. A child is a child, and if you see this acceptable, you belong on a National Registry and not a school board.”

EICHER: What you might be surprised to learn is that Moms for Liberty is not even two years old; it started in 2021. Mary Jackson explains that even though parents have been reporting objectionable books for years, this current movement is driven by something new.

JACKSON: Starting around 2015, the year Obergefell normalized same-sex marriage, we've seen this shift from say, like Harry Potter books being challenged to extremely graphic titles like Gender Queer, and the content is a lot worse. And it's more likely to be celebrated and promoted in school libraries.

REICHARD: Back in July 2022, Florida passed a law that requires schools to have their books vetted by media specialists trained by the state. While this approach may help remove problematic books, it’s not the only solution.

JACKSON: There are, you know, local school districts where there's a better review process in place now, and parents are really happy about that they, they feel heard, and they feel like there is a mechanism in place for them to, to raise awareness about a particular title. But it obviously does get tricky when parents begin challenging titles for other reasons besides sexual content…And the government really is getting more involved in the books that kids are allowed to read or pick out in the library.

EICHER: You know, back in February, WFLA Channel 8 reported that a theater company in St. Petersburg, Florida was opening what it called a banned books library. Turns out, conservatives weren’t the only ones with concerns. In addition to books like Gender Queer, this library carries books like To Kill a Mockingbird which some progressives object to because of racial slurs. Avery Anderson of American Stage explains the rationale for the library.

ANDERSON: A threat to any form of storytelling is a threat to every form of storytelling.

REICHARD: But not all books are the same.

JACKSON: You know, there is a big difference between books that perhaps expose a child to an idea or a way of thinking or talking that may be offensive today, and requires some discussion between the parents and the child, And books that include graphic descriptions or images of sexual encounters and abuse...We're not talking about classic books here.

EICHER: Right, the books are all still available online, so to say “banned books” is not accurate. What parents are getting is transparency about what books their kids have access to in public-school libraries. They are also getting a say in deciding what books go in that limited space.

JACKSON: The books that we're talking about, the most challenged books, are disturbing and clearly crossed the line in terms of age appropriateness. You could say, for parents, the trust has been broken, and they really see the need for more scrutiny when it comes to the sexual content.

REICHARD: While there may be room for disagreement about the best way for state governments to regulate the content of school libraries, the bottom line is that parents need to be the ones to decide when and how to introduce their children to topics of sexuality and gender.

JACKSON: A book that is put on a display in a school library and attracts a child's attention that has extremely graphic images or descriptions of  explicit sexual content, you know, that that really does take something away from the parents and takes something away from the child.

Mary Jackson is a senior writer for WORLD, and you can find her full article on wng.org, where we’ve included a link in today’s transcript.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...