A new book ban goes into effect in Missouri, and librarians are already being forced to pull books from the shelves because of it. The book ban—which pretty obviously violates both intellectual freedom and education opportunities—actually makes it a crime for educators and librarians to give people under 18 books that contain sexually explicit material. Now, as Daily Kos has continued to cover, these concerns, in practice, tend to only be used against books by and about LGBTQ+ people; the same way that queer media is accused of being “inappropriate” or “obscene” but it’s all just fine if it’s about cisgender, heterosexual people.
This new law applies to both public and private schools and essentially puts the onus on the individual adult to decide if the material they’re providing can be considered art or of anthropological significance or not. It also isn’t supposed to apply to material used in sex ed or science classes. The law applies to images, like in graphic novels, as well as images used in movies, PowerPoints, and so on. The law doesn’t differentiate between levels of appropriateness for say, kindergarten versus high school. It’s all the same.
Violators of the law could face up to one year in jail and $2,000 in fines.
RELATED STORY: Straight Pride extremists embarrass themselves yet again with event outside of Planned Parenthood
The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, went into effect as of Aug. 28, but loads of books have already been removed. As reported by BookRiot, for example, the Rockwood library system already removed more than 20 books—even though they aren’t in violation of the law, as some of them are used for sex education.
So, why were they pulled? Because people are afraid. Why, though, specifically? Well, sex ed books used in sex education classes are exempt from the law. But if they’re just stocked in the library? That’s not mentioned in the text of the law. So gone they go.
Kansas City Public Library Branch Operations Director Cindy Hohl spoke to local outlet Fox 2 Now in an interview, noting that the law puts librarians in a very difficult position, though she says they’ll continue to work with schools to figure out these new guidelines.
“Most librarians don’t go into the profession thinking that anything that they do during the course of their day could result in punitive action,” she added.
Conservatives backing this change say it’s about protecting young children from exploitation. But we know it’s really about stomping down on the freedom to read and learn, especially when it comes to queerness, sexual health, and sexual identity.
Libraries are one of the only places young people can access books for free, and it’s truly disturbing to see so many efforts to ban books. Young people will get the information they’re looking for one way or another, but it’s likely to be a much safer experience if it’s from a library book than from the corners of the internet in secret.