LIVE STREAMING
PA Rep. Chris Rabb authored a new piece of legislation that addresses the power of school districts in the state to ban books.
PA Rep. Chris Rabb authored a new piece of legislation that addresses the power of school districts in the state to ban books. Photo: Office of State Rep. Chris Rabb

New PA legislation would limit school districts power to ban books outright

The authored legislation from PA Rep. Chris Rabb is meant to address bans that are facing major backlash from students and teachers.

MORE IN THIS SECTION

Corruption Is Not Welcome

January 26th, 2023

It's Time to Come Together

January 25th, 2023

Hobbs’ Migrant Busses

January 25th, 2023

Lockdown in the Inca Empire

January 24th, 2023

Jones Challenges Gauthier

January 24th, 2023

Institutional Racism in FL

January 23rd, 2023

Helping Monterey Park

January 23rd, 2023

Texas’ $29 million Bill

January 20th, 2023

SHARE THIS CONTENT:

Book banning in schools and its curriculums have surged in the last year at an alarming rate comparable to that of the amount banned during the entire 20th century. 

Censorship has become an issue in public education that now has teachers and students annoyed with their districts over what those in power consider literature that goes against their particular values concering gender identity, sexual orientation, and race. 

School districts have a tremendous power that allows them to make these huge decisions without the input of anyone else, including teachers, and other professionals. 

That could change with a new legislation introduced by a Philadelphia Democrat that would, at least in Pennsylvania, limit the outright power that school districts have over such decisions. 

Pennsylvania Representative Chris Rabb, who represents the 200th District in Northwest Philly, authored a new piece of legislation on Oct. 11, that would make school districts have to go through certain procedures before they can come to the conclusion of banning any such thing from Pennsylvania classrooms. 

“These effectively unilateral decisions made by school boards are extremely harmful to LGBTQ+ youth and students of color given that the subjects discussed in these so-called ‘inappropriate’ and ‘explicit’ books often discuss many serious and real issues impacting these communities.” Rabb said. 

“These bans are widely unpopular among teachers and students. Yet, elected school boards continue to ignore public opinion and implement these egregious policies,” Rabb added.

According to the legislation, it would require the PA Department of Education and district school board to participate in at least two public hearings on the book at issue. It additionally will be moderated by professionals with expertise on the book and its contents before the school board initiates a vote to rid it from the classrooms and its libraries.

“This legislation will ensure the voices of a district’s teachers, students, and community members are adequately heard when making these important decisions. Students should not be subjected to restrictive and potentially hostile learning environments because the school board of their assigned school district made decisions about what books they can and can’t have access to in school,” Rabb said in the legislation. 

A nationwide trend

Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education program told The Hill back in April following the release of a report authored by Friedman on the number of book bans in America, that at that time, over 1,586 books were banned or had restrictions in place. According to the report, censorship of this kind currently exists in 86 school districts across 26 states in the U.S. 

“This is an orchestrated attack on books whose subjects only recently gained a foothold on school library shelves and in classrooms,” Friedman told The Hill, “We are witnessing the erasure of topics that only recently represented progress toward inclusion.” 

State governors have played a huge role in the amount of bans that have been put in place. 

In Pennsylvania it’s the state legislature and individual school districts. For example, just last year, a county school board banned a curated list of books that was composed nearly completely of work by or about people of color. 

In the report, one of the stark statistics was that Texas unsurprisingly, especially under Gov. Greg Abbott, is the state with the most amount of bans at 713. Pennsylvania comes in second with 456, Florida with 204, Oklahoma with 43, Kansas with 30 and Tennessee with 16. 

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, told The Hill about the dangers of this seemingly normal practice. 

“The embrace of book bans as a weapon to ward off narratives that are seen as threatening represents a troubling retreat from America’s historic commitment to the First Amendment rights of students, and to reacting to speech considered objectionable with more speech, rather than censorious prohibitions,” she said. 

According to the report from this past April, the book bans have been mostly aimed at over 1,145 books by 874 authors and as a result have impacted an overall 2 million students in 2,899 schools across the country. 

Out of those banned, 22% address race or racism with 33% addressing LGBTQ+ themes, the report revealed. Even though the majority of those banned are fiction pieces of literature, 16% of the books being restricted or banned are history books or biographies that include some about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Sonia Sotomayor, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Malala Yousafzai.

What’s happening in Central Bucks?

In addition to the huge number of bans in Pennsylvania, one particular school district, Central Bucks School District — one of the largest in the greater Philly region — is currently facing a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), accusing the school district of discrimination and harassment towards its LGBTQ+ student body. 

In the filing on Thursday, Oct. 6, the ACLU asked the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to conduct an investigation into the school district. The complaint was filed instead of a lawsuit to protect the identities of the seven students who are minors. 

Suburban Reporter for WHYY, Emily Rizzo, attended Central Bucks School District’s first big school board meeting since the complaint was filed. In what was a packed room, the meeting was focused on a policy that would ban Pride flags in the district's classrooms. 

According to Rizzo’s reporting, the proposed policy was actually mentioned in the complaint filed against Central Bucks. As a result, the Department of Justice or the Department of Education will have to determine if one of them wants to investigate the district, and order the district to get rid of some of its policies. 

In her report, Board President Dana Hunter read a statement on behalf of the district in which she responds to the complaint made and said the district has policies that protect children and requested that the ACLU post their complaint without redactions, which would mean including the name of the seven students so that they can connect with, support them, and “intervene.” 

High school students also spoke at the meeting expressing their discontent with the actions of the school board and the district as well as its seemingly unwillingness to take the complaint seriously. 

“Focusing on identity and how the world is perceiving you is for mental health experts and not teachers,” said one community member, Donna Shannon, as relayed by Rizzo.

Policy 321, which is the policy in question that would censor what teachers can hang in their classrooms, will now move forward to another review at the next board meeting with 6-3 in support.

  • LEAVE A COMMENT:

  • Join the discussion! Leave a comment.

  • or
  • REGISTER
  • to comment.
  • LEAVE A COMMENT:

  • Join the discussion! Leave a comment.

  • or
  • REGISTER
  • to comment.
00:00 / 00:00
Ads destiny link