Partial Victory in Iowa Book Ban Lawsuit: Book Censorship News, December 29, 2023

Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She’s the editor/author of (DON’T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

It’s a holiday week, so let’s keep this short and sweet—and end another year of coverage on a promising note.

Earlier this month, I rounded up the current lawsuits pertaining to book bans across the country. Among them are two lawsuits in Iowa aimed at the state’s controversial SF 496, the bill that contributed to the use of tools like AI to determine whether or not school library books needed to be banned.

Lawyers representing Penguin Random House in one of the suits said that the attorneys representing Iowa reported that the law was being misused to ban LGBTQ+ content. Even though the state ban on LGBTQ+ instruction (whatever that means) would still apply to grades six and lower, this does not mean books with LGBTQ+ content cannot be made available in school libraries. Only books that depict “sex acts” as defined by state statute were subject to removal from school libraries.

In other words, those are not books with or about LGBTQ+ characters.

As Andrew Albanese wrote in a piece at Publisher’s Weekly, the challenges of navigating this new law—which passed with the help of state members of Moms For Liberty who have enjoyed a cozy relationship with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds—showed in the initial lawsuit hearing:

In an illuminating exchange, [Judge] Locher asked [Iowa attorney] Johnston to elaborate: Could a fourth grade teacher share a book with gay characters with students? No, Johnston replied. Could a student choose to write a book report about a book with gay characters? Yes, Johnston said. “A teacher could say, ‘I want all the students to write a student essay.’ If that student then themselves goes to the library and selects a book about gay characters, that’s perfectly fine.”

This lawsuit, nor the other active lawsuit in the state, has not been settled as of writing. But let’s hope that this small victory is the start of more to come.

Book Censorship News: December 29, 2023

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