2 students sue Missouri school district over banned books

February 17, 2022 GMT

WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Two students have sued a suburban St. Louis school district over its decision to remove several books from school libraries.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sued the Wentzville School District on Tuesday on behalf of the students, who aren’t named in the lawsuit because they are minors, KWMU-FM reported.

The district’s school board voted last month to remove “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison from its school libraries because of its explicit descriptions of sex, violence, rape and incest. The board also voted to temporarily remove other books while they are reviewed.

A Wentzville school district spokeswoman said in an email Thursday that the district was aware of the lawsuit but wouldn’t comment on it.

The class-action lawsuit alleges the books were removed because they contain viewpoints of authors or protagonists that are people of color or people who identify as LGBTQ.

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The lawsuit comes as school districts across the country are being pressured to remove books from school libraries.

Tony Rothert, director of advocacy for ACLU of Missouri, said this is the first lawsuit of its kind the organization has filed nationally during the current spike in book removals.

“This just isn’t any old book banning, as happens from time to time, where school districts disagree with the ideology of a book,” Rothert said. “Here Wentzville has targeted and removed books that are from the perspective and viewpoint of racial or sexual minorities.”

The Wentzville school district’s policy is to remove the books from circulation while they are being reviewed, which Rothert said makes it too easy for anyone in the district to get a book removed just by filing a complaint.

In 2000, a federal judge struck down a law in Wichita Falls, Texas, after the ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging the removal of two books from the city’s public library. The books, “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate” depicted the lives of gay and lesbian characters.

The judge ruled the city’s law allowing signers of petitions to remove “objectionable” books was unconstitutional.