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Two students and ACLU sue Missouri school district over removing 8 books from libraries

<i>Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images</i><br/>
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images
"All Boys Aren't Blue" is among the books banned by some schools.

By Amanda Musa, CNN

Two students have sued a Missouri school district over its decision to remove eight books from school libraries, arguing the novels were banned because they discuss issues surrounding race, gender and sexual identity.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU) against the Wentzville School District on behalf of the students who are minors and not named in the complaint.

“The banned books engage their readers with a diversity of ideas and minority viewpoints, including with respect to race, gender, and sexual identity,” the ACLU argues in the class action lawsuit.

“The District banned the books from school libraries because of the ideological disagreement members of the District’s school board and certain vocal community members have with the ideas and viewpoints that the books express.”

Brynne Cramer, spokesperson for the school district, told CNN officials are aware of the lawsuit and said the district will not comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Tony Rothert, who heads integrated advocacy at Missouri’s ACLU, told CNN Thursday the school district is on a “book-banning spree.”

“This school district adopted policies that make it easy for any disgruntled community member to force any book from the shelves for any reason,” Rothert said in a statement. “This plays right into the hands of those with an agenda to rid our public schools of viewpoints belonging to anyone other than straight, white men.”

The Wentzville school board voted 4-3 last month to remove permanently “The Bluest Eye” by the late renowned novelist Toni Morrison from school shelves as well as digital access, according to school board documents. A motion to fully restrict the Morrison book argued it contained graphic content such as pedophilia, incest and rape, the lawsuit shows.

Wentzville School Board member Sandy Garber said she did not consider her vote against “The Bluest Eye” equivalent to banning the book but to protecting children from obscenity, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.

“By all means, go buy the book for your child,” she said at the board meeting. “I would not want this book in the school for anyone else to see.”

The school district, located in a suburb of St. Louis, has also removed seven other critically acclaimed books from school library circulation, according to the complaint.

Morrison’s novel, which tells the story of a Black girl who is fixated on the white standards of beauty and wishes she had blue eyes, was one of the 10 most banned books in the US in 2020, according to the American Library Association.

In 1993, Morrison became the first Black woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 — the highest US honor for a civilian. She died in 2019.

According to the lawsuit, the other books removed from the school district’s libraries are: “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback,” by Alison Bechdel; “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson; “Heavy: An American Memoir,” by Kiese Laymon; “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison; “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces,” by Isabel Quintero; “Modern Romance,” by Aziz Ansari; and “Invisible Girl,” by Lisa Jewell.

The American Library Association’s executive director Tracie Hall warned against banning books as it affects child development in relation to real-world challenges.

“It is so important to provide access to a free range of reading to young people to help them actually problem solve before they encounter the problem in real life,” Hall said.

Hall’s opinions come after a series of book bans across the county.

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