Banning Book Bans: Pennsylvania Democrats Want to End the Practice

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 30: Protestors demonstrate outside the Moms for Liberty Convention on June 30, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ACT UP Philly, Youth Communist League, and Grandparents for Truth and Defense of Democracy organized protests. (Photo by Mark Makela for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

August 7, 2023

Pennsylvania ranked third in the country in 2022 when it comes to school districts attempting to ban books. A pair of Democratic lawmakers want to end the practice because it wastes time, energy and resources for school districts.

A pair of Democratic lawmakers want to make it illegal to implement book bans in school districts across the commonwealth.

In the Senate, State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery) is circulating a co-sponsor memo for her legislation that would require local libraries to adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights and develop a written statement that prohibits a local library from banning books or other materials. Libraries that do not comply will be denied state funding.

“Really, what this legislation does is put the faith in the experts of libraries and our schools to help young people navigate the books that are best for them, that are appropriate for them and I trust them to do their jobs because our country was founded on the sharing of ideas and the freedom to do those things,” Cappelletti said in an interview.

“Pennsylvania played an incredible role in that with the founding of the country’s first library and we need to live up to those ideals,” she added. “In the face of book banning, I want to put together and put out policies that put a ban on book banning and protect the right to read.”

Meanwhile, the House, State Rep. Paul Friel (D-Chester) introduced the Freedom to Read Act, which would create panels composed of teachers, superintendents, librarians and other teaching professionals to review book bans being pushed by school boards or outside organizations like Moms for Liberty.

Prior to being elected to the House, Friel served as a school board member for the Owen J. Roberts school board in Chester County.

“A lot of the time you start seeing things come before the school boards that are really influenced outside the district, and certain groups like Moms for Liberty have been getting more and more politically active at the school board level,” Friel said during an interview.

In 2022, Pennsylvania ranked third in the country for proposed book bans. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, a large portion of those bans happened at the Central York School District, but after students pushed back and drew national attention they were able to reverse course.

“If you would follow just what they’re saying at this precise moment, they would have you believe this is about one specific book and one very specific issue, but when we have had 56 attempted bans of 302 unique titles, what you’ll learn is this is about so much more. It’s about erasing people’s identity and their ability to see themselves in the literature they’re able to access,” said Cappelletti.

Aside from putting vulnerable students in harm’s way, book bans tend to be a waste of time, energy and resources whipped up by hysteria on social media.

“That actually happened in our school district,” said Friel. “Part of that was my own lived experience on the school board where we had parents and folks circulating a list of books. And we went through every single library to see, is this book in here.

“Multiple times, we’ve done this only to find that the book is not actually in our school. And this was not a list generated at our school district, but something somebody got off the internet and shared it around saying that this is going on in our school.”

 

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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