OCR has a concern the District received notice that its media center book screening process may
have created a hostile environment for students, yet the District’s responsive steps related to the
book screening process were not designed to, and were insufficient to, ameliorate any resultant
racially and sexually hostile environment. OCR recognizes the District Media Committee rejected
suggestions to handle challenged books in ways that it believed would target certain groups of
students and that the District posted a statement on media centers’ websites that they “provide
resources that reflect all students within each school community” and that “If you come across a
book that does not match your family’s values and/or beliefs, and you would prefer that your child
does not check that book out, please discuss it with your child.” OCR also recognizes the District
limited its book screening process to sexually explicit material. Nonetheless, communications at
8 In June 2022, media again addressed the book removal and the alleged impact upon students. An online article dated
June 21, 2022, attributed to a District sophomore a statement that as a brown, female person, “this is something that
affects me,” and attributed to a District senior the statement, "I'm openly queer, openly transgender, and so it really
hits close to home when people are like, let's not have diversity." Forsyth County Schools remove eight books for
‘sexually explicit content’ amid nationwide library debate (Last accessed by OCR April 4, 2023).
9 According to the form, there were five groups of readers and each group read two books.
board meetings conveyed the impression that books were being screened to exclude diverse
authors and characters, including people who are LGBTQI+ and authors who are not white, leading
to increased fears and possibly harassment. Indeed, one student commented at a District school
board meeting about the school environment becoming more harsh in the aftermath of the book
removals and his fear about going to school, and evidence OCR reviewed to date reflects other
students expressing similar views. District witnesses reported to OCR that the District has not
taken steps to address with students the impact of the book removals. In light of these
communications and actions, OCR is concerned a hostile environment may have arisen that the
District needed to ameliorate
“The OCR’s finding will cause our school district, and other school systems around the country, to think twice before acquiescing to pressure from pro-censorship groups targeting our libraries,” coalition member Becky Woomer said in an email on Sunday. “This finding gives people in places like Missouri and Florida, where state legislatures are making it easier to take books off shelves, a real leg to stand on in pushing back.”
The outcome in the Georgia case could affect how administrators in other districts and states manage book-removal requests. It comes as the country faces a historic rise in attempts to pull books from school libraries and classrooms. The majority of such challenges — which began to spike shortly after the coronavirus pandemic ignited culture wars in education — target books that deal with race, racism, and LGTBQ characters and themes, the American Library Association and free-expression advocacy group PEN America have repeatedly found.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is separately investigating a Texas school district for yanking books with LGBTQ content last year. The outcome of that case, based on a complaint filed by the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, will determine the validity of the ACLU’s novel legal argument that not representing students in schoolbooks can constitute discrimination. If the Biden administration finds in the ACLU’s favor, it could force districts nationwide to stock more titles featuring LGBTQ characters.
This last part has to be a reference to Granbury ISD in Hood County, Texas. ACLU complaint
OCR confirmed on December 6 that after evaluating the complaint, it is opening an investigation. In addition, OCR noted that “Granbury ISD has been informed of your complaint allegation to be investigated, and OCR has requested documentation and information from the District.” Since “the district is a recipient of Federal financial assistance, OCR has jurisdiction to process this complaint under Title IX.”
The following quote can be attributed to Chloe Kempf, attorney at the ACLU of Texas:
“Public school districts cannot discriminate against students on the basis of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. By choosing to open this investigation in response to our complaint, the federal government is signaling that remedying discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students is a top priority and that school districts cannot deny students the right to be themselves in school, be it through book bans, discriminatory comments, or other harmful policies.
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