Madison County school officials placed more than 20 books in restricted circulation last week following complaints from parents about their contents.
Students must have parental permission to check out one of the restricted books in the district’s elementary, middle, and high school libraries.
A team of educators will review the challenged books for “mature content” and make recommendations to district leaders, said Gene Wright, director of communications for Madison County Schools.
“These books may contain content that requires more mature thinking to appropriately process in the context of the literature. We want to partner with parents in terms of what reading material their students are checking out,” Wright said. “Our district values the free exchange of ideas and respects parents’ different views regarding what reading material is appropriate for their children.”
The dispute follows public controversy over the funding of the Ridgeland library, which the mayor of Ridgeland initially said in January he withheld over objections to LGBTQ materials. After months of back and forth, the parties settled on an agreement last week.
Nationally, book bannings have been on the rise over the last year, hitting a record high since the American Library Association started tracking the challenges 20 years ago. The association also said that the majority of challenged books were by or about Black or LGBT individuals.
The books currently in restricted circulation in the Madison County School District are:
- “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
- “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
- “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
- “The Benefits of Being an Octopus” by Ann Braden
- “Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person” by Frederick Joseph
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
- “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone
- “Discovering Wes Moore” by Wes Moore
- “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
- “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika Sánchez
- “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
- “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” by Tiffany D. Jackson
- “Love, Hate, and Other Filters” by Samira Ahmed
- “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson
- “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez
- “Piecing Me Together” by Renee Watson
- “Queer, There, & Everywhere” by Sarah Prager
- “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
- “Touching Spirit Bear” by Ben Mikaelsen
- “Uglies” by Scott Westerfeld
The district confirmed that there are some challenged books that have never been checked out and that a full checkout history of each title will be available in the coming months. The district also said that the challenged books were primarily available in middle and high school libraries.
Mass Resistance, a group recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, touted the review of these books as a victory for local members.
Lindsey Beckham, who identified herself as the contact point for Mississippi’s chapter of Mass Resistance during the Ridgeland library hearings, first became interested in library content as a part of her concerns regarding critical race theory. She, along with other parents, reviewed the schools’ online library catalogs for titles that had been challenged in other parts of the country, according to their research.
“The topics that are being discussed in these books had no business being in a public school, nothing I want my children reading,” she said. “Going through and reading some of the excerpts from these books, the subjects, the topics are very dark, very disturbing, very heavy even for me as an adult.”
Beckham, who has one homeschooled daughter and one daughter at Germantown Middle, read an excerpt from one of the books at the most recent school board meeting, a video of which made the rounds on social media. Four days later, the books were placed in restricted circulation and principals sent letters home to parents explaining the situation.
Dalen Owens Grant, a mother of two children in the Madison school system, doesn’t take issue with the district’s method of handling the concerns, but she worries about how it bodes for the future.
”My problem is, just because they don’t want their children to read it, I don’t think their parenting ideas should be parenting everyone’s children,” she said.
Grant called it “unfair” that the list primarily contains books about minorities. The libraries won’t accurately portray the whole community if the books are removed, she said.
“Even if they get what they want out of this … if it’s not ‘The Kite Runner’ now, it’s going to be another book next week,” Grant said. “I just hope the school district is ready.”
The Madison County School Board plans to present a policy to handle future book challenges at its May 9 meeting.