Amid ‘Book Ban’ Accusations, Effort Grows to Protect Kids from Explicit Materials in School
Despite mainstream media outlet claims of “book banning,” the movement to protect children from being exposed to pornographic material in classrooms and school libraries is growing with the help of an expanding number of advocates and resources.
With the ascendance of the parental rights movement over the last three years, renewed focus has been placed on the presence of sexually explicit materials being used in public school classrooms as well as the availability of pornographic books in school libraries. In states like Texas and Florida, legislation was enacted that created new standards for keeping books with sexually explicit content out of school libraries and gave parents the right to challenge explicit books that were in school libraries and on reading lists.
But with the success of the movement came backlash. In Florida, media stories and detractors claimed that the law prevented schools from teaching about diversity and race. Governor Ron DeSantis (R) strongly contested these claims, stating that sexually explicit books like “Gender Queer” (“an explicit, pornographic book showing sex acts”) and “This Book Is Gay” (“a book containing instructions on ‘the ins and outs of gay sex’”) are the types of books that have been challenged, and that required instruction on race had been expanded, including instruction on “slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow laws.”
Further accusations of “book banning” are also being challenged by parental rights advocates like Karen England, who serves as executive director of Capitol Resource Institute. On Tuesday, she joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss the current state of affairs with sexually explicit books in schools, including the fact that over 40 states have laws that exempt pornographic books for school use that would otherwise be illegal to show minors outside of the classroom, because they have been deemed appropriate for “educational purposes.”
“That’s what a lot of people are missing,” she pointed out. “People get up and they speak at a school board meeting, or parents are going and they’re citing laws on obscenity and thinking that that’s going to get rid of these books. It’s not because it’s perfectly legal to have it there. So you’ve got to go a different route, and you’ve got to have a policy in place that allows you to remove these books and to have a say about removing them.”
England went on to note that sexually explicit books in schools is a problem not just contained to liberal states like California, but in traditionally conservative states as well.
“I was really disappointed at how quickly the Left and progressives have just gone in through the side door,” she observed. “They’re not waiting for legislation. They’re going and getting on school committees and on school boards. And so this stuff is coming in and everybody in red states thinks, ‘Oh, that’s just California.’ … That’s part of why we built our website TakeBacktheClassroom.com is to show you specifically the books that are in your school district and then excerpts from the book, because this is not ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’”
England further made it clear that her group is specifically targeting sexually explicit material, not books that may contain political views that can be widely disagreed upon.
“We are very selective,” she explained. “There are First Amendment issues. … You can’t get rid of something just because of a political viewpoint, but you can remove vulgar obscenity and pornography from your public schools. And that’s what we’re trying to focus parents on.”
England continued, “The other side, they want to paint us as ‘book banners,’ and we’re not. I just don’t think this is appropriate for our minor children. … [Books like] ‘The Bluest Eye’ [have] graphic rape and incest scenes. … The media likes to focus in on ‘Gender Queer,’ which is obscene and pornographic and should be removed. But a lot of it is erotica, white, heterosexual. And you would be shocked. [Books by authors like] Ellen Hopkins [and] Sarah Moss — these are books that from beginning to the end, are graphic erotica. … I’m not exaggerating.”
England also noted that many AP and honors classes are specifically assigning students books from “banned books” lists. “So often these books are actually assigned in AP and honors English for freshmen, [books] like ‘The Glass Castle,’ is one with a lot of graphic information. … So it’s not just a tacit endorsement, they’re actually pushing them on kids.”
England went on to emphasize that her goal is to encourage taxpaying parents to make decisions about what kind of materials are appropriate for their kids in their local communities.
“I really want to empower parents,” she underscored. “I’m not trying to ban books. I’m doing nothing different than what a librarian does. I want to curate books. These are our tax dollars, our kid’s hearts and minds, and our public schools. And so librarians curate. They decide if a book is legitimate or not to be put in the library, and then they set others aside. Well, I want to decide. I want parents and local community members to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t for your community.”
England concluded by referring to the model policies that are available for parents to follow in order to get pornographic books removed from schools.
“Our policy says … that any community member can challenge the book,” she explained. “When it’s challenged, the superintendent has to remove the book. And within 45 days, the school board has to have a hearing. It can be a regular school board hearing. And the school board, which are elected officials, decide if that book is put back or not. And that’s where it should be. It should be with the elected officials, and it should be where you can see all in the light, like who is for these graphic rape scenes and who isn’t. And I think this is going to be something that’s going to help continue to flip school boards [on] this issue alone.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.