Students sue Wentzville School District over book banning

WENTZVILLE — The Wentzville School Board voted 7-0 Tuesday to keep a challenged book in school libraries, just hours after students filed a lawsuit against the district for removing other books.

Two students sued the Wentzville School District in federal court Tuesday for violating their civil rights by banning books from school libraries, including “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri are representing the two students, who are identified only by the initials C.K.-W. and D.L. in the class action lawsuit.

Removing books threatens the students’ abilities “to learn and engage with a diversity of ideas and information, including seeing their own experiences reflected in the books and developing greater understanding of the experiences of others,” according to the suit, which seeks to have the books returned to school libraries.

Also Tuesday, the Wentzville board unanimously approved the recommendation of the district’s book challenge committee to retain “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero. The book, a coming-of-age story of a Mexican-American teenager, had been challenged by Renee Henke for foul language and depiction of rape.

“I did think that it offered some value to a teenager, and I do think that there were some good lessons that I’m sure would be learned,” said board member Sandy Garber, who was on the review committee.

Last month, Garber voted with the board majority to pull “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison from the district’s high school libraries following a challenge from another parent. The board rejected the recommendation of the review committee to keep the book in school libraries.

The ban received backlash from librarians and residents, sparking a fundraising campaign by a local bookstore to distribute 500 copies of the novel.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the district also has removed “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson, “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon, “Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari from its libraries.

According to the lawsuit, the books are part of a “targeted campaign by the St. Charles County Parents Association and No Left Turn in Education’s Missouri chapter to remove particular ideas and viewpoints about race and sexuality from school libraries,”

The Wentzville district has not responded to requests for information about the additional books named in the lawsuit.

In November, the North Kansas City School District backtracked and returned “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Fun Home” to libraries after receiving a warning letter from the ACLU of Missouri.

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