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Michigan among top states in the U.S. with most book bans in schools, report finds

Posted at 10:21 AM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 10:21:16-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan is among the states with the most banned books at schools in the country, according to a new report released this week by PEN America.

The report titled "Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools," comes during Banned Books Week, which encourages people to celebrate the freedom to read. PEN America aims to protect open expression in the U.S. an champions the freedom to write and read.

In Michigan, the report found that there were 41 bans across four different districts: Gladwin Community Schools, Rochester Community Schools, the Novi Community School District and Hudsonville Public Schools. It's the sixth-most number of bans in the country.

The report did not include the seven books that were recently pulled from Dearborn Public Schools, which would move Michigan up to No. 5 with 48 total bans.

7 books pulled from Dearborn Public Schools after parents express concerns

Texas has the most amount with 801 bans across 22 districts, followed by Florida with 566 bans in 21 districts, Pennsylvania with 457 bans in 11 districts and Tennessee with 349 bans in six districts.

“While we think of book bans as the work of individual concerned citizens, our report demonstrates that today’s wave of bans represents a coordinated campaign to banish books being waged by sophisticated, ideological and well-resourced advocacy organizations,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. “This censorious movement is turning our public schools into political battlegrounds, driving wedges within communities, forcing teachers and librarians from their jobs, and casting a chill over the spirit of open inquiry and intellectual freedom that underpin a flourishing democracy.”

PEN America said that the new report chronicles efforts around the country by dozens of groups to ban books at the national, state or local level.

One group called the Michigan Liberty Leaders "took an image of books from the Welcoming Schools bullying prevention program created by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation—including books designed to support LGBTQ+ students—and added alarmist language about the books being in schools," according to the report.

According to PEN America, 41% of the titles address LGTBQ+ themes or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+, 40% feature protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color, and 21% directly address issues of race and racism.

PEN reports that the most frequently banned books were "Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe" which is banned in 41 districts, "All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson, banned in 29 districts, and "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Pérez, banned in 24 districts.

In Rochester, there are five books banned pending investigation. Gladwin has 34 books banned pending investigation, while Hudsonville has one book banned in classrooms and Novi has one book banned in libraries.

In Dearborn, the district temporarily pulled seven books from circulation and restricted access to an e-book app featuring thousands of titles.

"We are not banning books, I want to make that very clear," said David Mustonen, who heads communications for the Dearborn Public Schools. "What we are doing is evaluating the books in our inventory."

The district says they have more than 100,000 titles to go through. The process could take a year to complete.

Parents and community members took turns speaking during the public comment portion. Some were for the ban on books and others against it.

"No one has a right to censor someone else except a parent for their child," a concerned citizen said. "As public officials, it is your duty to try to maintain as wide of access to information as possible."

A school board member drew applause from the crowd after saying books help expose students to different viewpoints and lifestyles.