ACLU of Texas Issues "Banned Books" Report In Wake of Major Victory in Local Censorship Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
September 22, 2000 12:00 am

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AUSTIN, TX–Kicking off national “Banned Books Week,” and in the wake of a recent local victory in a book censorship case, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas today issued a 71-page report on books that were banned or challenged in Texas public schools during the 1999-2000 school year.

According to the report, 152 challenges to books were filed in Texas schools on a total of 119 different books. Of these 152 challenges, 42 banning incidents resulted, with 16 decisions “pending review.”

While it appeared that most of the challenges were for language and sexual content deemed to be “inappropriate,” other targets included books containing references to witches or the supernatural, like the popular Harry Potter series, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

“It is alarming to note that so many valuable works have been taken off the shelves and denied to students,” said William Harrell, executive director of the ACLU of Texas.

“Taking books out of a curriculum for legitimate pedagogical reasons is one thing,” he noted, “but taking a book out of a library because of its content is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional. The ACLU stands ready to help any parent, teacher or librarian in fighting censorship.”

One such challenge brought by the Texas ACLU recently resulted in a victory: on Sept. 20, a court struck down a Wichita Falls ordinance that restricted access to two books about gay parenting.

“The resolution and the book removals burden fully-protected speech on the basis of content and viewpoint and they therefore cannot stand,” wrote U.S. District Judge Buchmeyer in an opinion that stressed adherence to free speech values.

“In striking down the Wichita Falls policy, Judge Buchmeyer reminds us that our fundamental, Constitutional rights are not insignificant,”said Harrell. “They certainly can withstand the whims of a vocal minority. This nation benefits from its diversity, and our democracy has endured because ignorance and bigotry are restrained by judicial enforcement of the Constitution.”

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the first day of Banned Books Week, the ACLU of Texas is holding banned book readings across the state. Local authors and celebrities will be reading passages from books that were challenged in Texas Public Schools during the 1999-2000 school year at Half Price Books stores in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

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