2 students sue Missouri school district over banned books

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Two students sued a suburban St. Louis school district over its decision to remove several books from school libraries.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sued the Wentzville School District on Tuesday on behalf of the students, who are not named in the lawsuit because they are minors, KWMU-FM reported.

The district school board voted last month to remove Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” from its school libraries because of its explicit depictions of sex, violence, rape and incest. The board also voted to temporarily remove other books while they are reviewed.

A Wentzville School District spokeswoman said in an email Thursday that the district is aware of the lawsuit but will not comment on it.

The class action lawsuit alleges that the books were removed because they contain viewpoints from authors or protagonists who are people of color or people who identify as LGBTQ.

The lawsuit comes as school districts across the country are under pressure to remove the books from school libraries.

Tony Rothert, advocacy director for the ACLU of Missouri, said this is the first such lawsuit the organization has filed nationwide during the current spike in book takedowns.

“It’s just not just any old banning book, as it happens from time to time, where school districts disagree with the ideology of a book,” Rothert said. “Here, Wentzville has targeted and removed books that are from the perspective and point of view of racial or sexual minorities.”

Wentzville School District policy is to remove books from circulation while they are being reviewed, which Rothert says makes it too easy for anyone in the district to have a book removed simply by filing a complaint.

In 2000, a federal judge struck down a law in Wichita Falls, Texas after the ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging the removal of two books from the city’s public library. The books, “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate” depict the lives of gay and lesbian characters.

The judge ruled that the city’s law allowing petition signers to remove “objectionable” books was unconstitutional.

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