December 26, 2023

AB Snyder: Book bans are the new norm in school libraries across the country

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Writing for The Campus, the newspaper at Allegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania, AB Snyder talks to some students who have a definite perspective on banned books and revisits some local controversies.

To Elanor Bonta, ’26, the concept of banned books is quite familiar.
The soft-spoken, magenta-haired psychology major is originally from China, where many books are outlawed as per the demands of the Communist Party.
Regardless, Bonta is an avid reader, even having read some of the prohibited novels from her home country. “When I left China for sure,” Bonta said. “Everything is banned so I don’t know what counts [as a banned book] and what doesn’t.”
Studying in the quiet of Carnegie Hall, Bonta shared her opinion on a school’s right to censor student reading material, saying it largely depends on the books and the topics in them.
While Bonta may be used to the concept, to the students and faculty at Allegheny College, where accessible and transparent education is valued, the subject of banned books is not taken lightly.
All over the U.S., book bans in school libraries are becoming increasingly common, with more parents, teachers, and students having to come to terms with living in a reality where library material is either challenged or outright prohibited.
Just a few miles up the road, a local school district PENNCREST faced heated controversy after putting in place a ban on books that contained certain material.
In early January 2023, the school board decided in a 5-3 vote to change policy language to prohibit books containing “inappropriate material.”

The policy change removed books from library shelves with “any material with explicitly written, visual or visually implied depictions of sexual acts or simulations of such acts, as well as visual depictions of nudity with the exception of anatomical diagrams and classical works of art.”

The school board originally made changes to the policy after member David Valesky opposed a list including books dealing with racial issues that he considered to “openly promote” the social justice group Black Lives Matter, which he referred to as a “hate group,” according to the Meadville Tribune.

Despite the rural district having a conservative majority, the book ban received a lot of backlash from those concerned with the censorship of library material. Multiple people spoke out in school board meetings and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote a letter to the school board on Jan. 9 urging them to reconsider.

Read the complete piece here. 


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