Manhattan responds to ban on books

(Graphic by Reece Bachta | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas school districts are banning several books for their explicit sexual content after legislature passed in Missouri late August of this year, according to Fox 4 News.

According to the Kansas City Star, the law is mainly directed towards public and private middle schools and high schools and is referred to as the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Governor Laura Kelly recently vetoed a similar bill that would force Kansas schools to do the same, but this did not stop several Kansas school districts from removing books.

“The text of the law says that someone who is affiliated with a school ‘in an official capacity’ cannot provide ‘explicit sexual material’ to a student if they ‘know of its content,’” according to the Kansas City Star.

 A few of the banned books in Kansas school districts include ‘“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Slaughterhouse-Five.” These books and others, especially those relating to LGBTQ themes, may continue being pulled from schools’ and libraries’ shelves as seen in recent months.

According to The Kansas City Star, the legislature indicates, “Librarians or other school employees who violate the law could be charged with a misdemeanor, risking up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.”

Alyvia Johnson, sophomore in humanities and international studies, said the ban is damaging to children and society.

“By banning books from children and not allowing access to these educational resources that will teach them more outside of this very closed-minded, conservative bubble can stunt their growth in cultural awareness,” Johnson said. “It may be detrimental to education by not allowing them to explore all taboo topics that are really important to both our history and our future.”

Alex Auker, junior in athletic training and rehab science, and Hale Library employee, said he is disappointed in the ban on books.

“I disagree with it. For example, I thought the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was great and had an excellent lesson associated with it,” Auker said. 

Dr. Sara Kearns, Academic Services Librarian for Hale Library, said, “I am very concerned about the increase in challenges to books and the number of books that have been removed from libraries and schools.”

Hale Library will continue distributing books banned elsewhere despite actions taken by other Kansas districts, Kearns said.

Adrien Sdao, Dusty Bookshelf employee, said no book should be banned. The Dusty Bookshelf will also continue selling literature freely.

According to Fox 4 News, PEN America, a non-profit organization advocating for the freedom of literature, discovered that “between July 2021 and March 2022, over 1,100 different books were challenged or pulled from libraries and classrooms. Roughly 500 additional titles were banned or challenged between March and July 1, 2022.” These books were prohibited before the implementation of the recent legislature.

Utterback spoke to KMBC on the book ban endorsed by himself and other conservative parental groups.

“Those conversations are to be had at home and only I have the intimate understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate for my children,” Utterback said.

Kearns disagrees.

“People should be able to decide for themselves and their children what they read,” Kearns said. “They do not have the right to decide that for others.”