Washington Post: “Are Book Bans Discrimination? Biden Administration to Test New Legal Theory.”
From The Washington Post:
The federal government has opened an investigation into a Texas school district over its alleged removal of books featuring LGBTQ characters — marking the first test of a new legal argument that failing to represent students in school books can constitute discrimination.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the Granbury Independent School District, department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said this month. The probe is based on a complaint of discrimination lodged last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said ACLU attorney Chloe Kempf.
These actions, attorneys for the Texas ACLU argue, violate Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in public schools on the basis of sex. The Biden administration recently interpreted this law as forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — a finding that is key to the ACLU chapter’s argument.
“The book removals and also the comments create this pervasively hostile environment,” attorney Kempf said. “Both send a message to the entire community that LGBTQ identities are inherently obscene, worthy of stigmatization — and the book removals uniquely deprive LGBTQ students of the opportunity to read books that reflect their own experiences.”
A Keller school district spokesperson said Tuesday that the district is aware of the ACLU’s complaint but that officials have not heard anything about a federal investigation. As of Dec. 30, the Keller complaint was not listed online as one of the Office for Civil Rights’ open cases, and Education Department spokesman Bradshaw declined to say whether the government plans to investigate the Keller district.
Meanwhile, library and free speech advocates are taking notice. John Chrastka, who heads the national political action committee EveryLibrary, said he was thrilled when he realized the scope and implications of the Texas ACLU’s argument that book banning could violate federal anti-discrimination laws.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.