Protecting Ourshelves

Library Censorship Increases Nationwide


Across the country, books are disappearing off school shelves due to the growing fear of having to deal with controversial topics. Without going through the right processes, administrators are preemptively taking books away that deal with subjects like sexuality, race, and religion.

Book censorship to this degree has not taken place at Heritage, but nationwide there are more cases of banned books than ever before.

“I don’t think I’ve personally experienced book censorship before, not in this library,” librarian Collin Stephenson said. “I do remember, when I was teaching in Prosper, the year that I got there the sophomore English class had been teaching a book called ‘A Separate Peace’ which parents got upset about. They did end up removing it without really any teacher input.”

‘A Separate Peace’ is a well known coming-of-age story about two boys, but it has been challenged by schools under the belief that it holds sexually suggestive content even though the author has denied any homoerotic implications. Topics like this are what schools are calling into question and removing to the dismay of several students.

“We’re in high school, so you’re eventually going to have to learn about sexuality or other religions and if you don’t have any other source or if you don’t have a family that will teach you about that stuff, then you might need to go to a library,” Kate Maddison (11) said. “And if the school library is your only place of access because you can’t drive anywhere, then that’s all you have.”

With the library’s main purpose being a place for educational resources, removing any book without legitimate reason can limit opportunities for students and legally endanger schools.

“Anytime that a book is removed without a process, without consideration, there’s a risk of that becoming a violation to a student’s right to the freedom of information, which is a protected right for students,” Stephenson said. “Some districts have had where a state or an outside organization actually takes a lawsuit to them for not allowing students access to certain types of information.”

Throughout school there is an exposure to diverse topics and beliefs. Even without these seemingly controversial books, students are subjected to different outside influences.

“Taking the books down leaves no place for growth and just general awareness,” Amber McCarthy (11) said. “Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean that you should be offended by it. In our schools we learn about different religions and cultures. It’s not like we’re only learning about Christianity, but I’m not offended because that doesn’t change my mind about my own beliefs.”

In order to protect the students’ right to information, there are certain qualifications that must be met in order to properly remove a book from the school library.

“Those topics alone – race, sexuality, and things like that – those are not grounds for removing a book from a collection,” Stephenson said. “The things that typically do come more into question are the maturity level of the content. So when things are excessively explicit or over the top without educational quality, then it becomes more of a question.”

Most students understand this rule and appreciate how it guarantees a level of excellence and professionalism among the school.

“I think the over use of sexual content in a book is a viable reason for it to be taken down because high school kids are weird,” Maddison said. “But the educational stuff should definitely stay.”

In cases where this rule is overlooked or ignored, however, school’s have the potential to harm the growth of their students and limit the voice of the students that come from diverse backgrounds.

“By nature censorship just tends to remove certain beliefs and viewpoints,” Stephenson said. “When you do that you’re devaluing viewpoints that a student may have and prohibiting students who don’t have that viewpoint from potentially encountering it in a way that is on level for them. So there’s not really a way in which censorship is beneficial.”

In the long run, many students believe that censorship will greatly inhibit them from encountering diverse beliefs in a positive way that ensures open mindedness and inclusivity.

“They’re trying to push their ideas on to younger kids,” Caitlyn Woodall (11) said. “But if you’re taking away these books, you can’t learn and you’ll grow up thinking that other lifestyles are different or wrong, even though it’s not wrong and it’s not bad.”

While this is not occurring at Heritage right now, there are measures that can be taken if book censorship does take place in the future.

“When we have things like school board meetings, those are free and open to the public and that includes you,” Stephenson said. “You are a part of this community, you are able to participate and give back. Get some friends together and go. That way you have a hand in steering the ship.”