A Missouri school district finds itself facing a proposed class action lawsuit after removing from circulation in school libraries eight critically acclaimed books due to officials’ apparent “dislike of the ideas” contained in the publications.
The 23-page lawsuit against the Wentzville R-IV School District over its removal of the following titles from libraries argues that the books were banned by the defendant “with the intent and purpose to prescribe what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true in matters of opinion,” and in violation of students’ rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison;
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback, by Alison Bechdel;
All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson;
Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon;
Lawn Boy, by Jonathan Evison;
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero;
Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari; and
Invisible Girl, by Lisa Jewell.
Each of the banned books features and presents the perspective of an author or protagonist, or both, who is non-white, LGBTQ+ or otherwise identifies as a minority, the lawsuit stresses. The complaint alleges the removal of books from Wentzville school libraries is part of a targeted campaign by the St. Charles County Parents Association and No Left Turn in Education’s Missouri Chapter to “remove particular ideas and viewpoints about race and sexuality from school libraries.”
The lawsuit contends that the above-listed books engage readers with “a diversity of ideas and minority viewpoints” with regard to race, gender and sexual identity. The Wentzville R-IV School District, which has roughly 17,400 students, banned the titles over the “ideological disagreement” members of the district’s school board had with certain “vocal” community members, the suit says.
“Defendant deprived Plaintiffs and the Class of access to the Banned Books and the ideas contained therein, uniformly preventing students who might wish to access the books from doing so while stigmatizing the ideas and viewpoints expressed by the books,” the lawsuit alleges.
Within the district, Board Policy 6310 provides that the Wentzville School Board believes that the district’s library and media centers are responsible for providing materials that “reflect the ideals and beliefs of religious, social, political, historical and ethnic groups, and their contributions to American and world cultures,” and thereby enable students to “develop an intellectual integrity in forming judgments,” the lawsuit states. Among the obligations outlined in Board Policy 6310 is the responsibility of the Wentzville District Board to ensure “maximum accessibility” to materials and provide materials that will “encourage growth in knowledge and that will develop literary, cultural and aesthetic appreciation, and ethical standards,” the complaint relays.
Moreover, Board Policy 6310 stipulates that the librarian, with approval of the school principal, is to make the final selection decisions with regard to books included in school libraries, the suit says. The same regulation, according to the lawsuit, specifies that library materials can be “weeded” out or removed by a librarian because they are soiled, damaged or torn beyond repair; in excess of age sensitivity; or have been found to contain unreliable information.
The proposed class action alleges the defendant has wrongfully gone outside of the procedure outlined by Board Policy 6310 for making a complaint against library materials a student or parent considers “objectionable.” One guideline for the consideration of challenged materials orders that books or other materials shall not be excluded on the basis of the writer’s racial, nationalistic, political or religious views, or on the basis of partisan or doctrinal approval or disapproval, the lawsuit says.
According to the complaint, the defendant’s decision to removeThe Bluest Eye from libraries was due to the fact that the book contains “Pediphilla [sic], incest, [and] rape.” Although an 8-1 majority of the committee responsible for reviewing the book voted to retain it, the Wentzville Board nevertheless chose not to retain The Bluest Eye, and even shot down a motion to restrict access to the title to only students in advanced placement (AP) classes, the lawsuit says.
Further, the suit contends that the removal of Fun Home,All Boys Aren’t Blue and Heavy was done “outside of the ordinary course and procedures for the consideration of weeding” described in Board Policy 6310. Lawn Boy, Gabi, Modern Romance and Invisible Girl were immediately removed from school library shelves in the wake of formal challenges and pending review, the case adds.
The lawsuit charges that the Wentzville District’s failure to use established, regular and facially unbiased procedures for the removal of books demonstrates that the eight titles at issue have been removed “on an arbitrary basis and not in a viewpoint-neutral manner.” As a result, students throughout the district face the threat of future harm, and additional books are likely to be removed from district libraries over “officials’ and community members’ desire to deny students access to ideas with which they disagree,” the filing says.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
Camp Lejeune residents may soon have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.