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November 3, 2023

Amy O. Cooke

CALN Founding Member & CALN Board of Directors President

The front line in the battle for student achievement, parental rights, and age-appropriate content is your local school and public library.

Florida is the latest addition to a growing list of states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Wyoming, Missouri, and Texas, that have ended their affiliation with the American Library Association (ALA). The decision stems from parents and school board members’ concerns regarding their ability to restrict sexually explicit content for school children. 

ALA misleadingly labels the battle “censorship” and “book banning,” which furthers hostilities between the groups. For its part, the ALA’s “library bill of rights” puts the organization in direct opposition to parents and some school board members, stating it “opposes all [ emphasis mine] attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.”

In a recent press conference, the Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder said, “She would not wave the excerpts around during the press conference because it would create alarm and spectacle,” according to the Cowboy State Daily:

If it is so wildly inappropriate for a public press conference, then I ask why we have it available in our schools?…This graphic, sexually arousing material is why parents are upset and concerned. This type of material has no place in schools, not even one. 

Ultimately, Degenfelder said, explicit material hurts student achievement, “Graphic, sexual material in any form does nothing to advance that mission and ultimately distracts from it, and costs us the confidence of parents in our state.”  

One of the most poignant cases for withdrawal from the ALA came from South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver, who argued

Parents are entirely justified in seeking to ensure educational materials presented to their children are age-appropriate and aligned with the overall purpose of South Carolina’s instructional programs and standards. When SCASL labels those efforts as bans, censorship or a violation of educators’ intellectual freedom, the result is a more hostile environment which does not serve the needs of students. 

In South Carolina, student well-being and parental satisfaction are not opposing interests. 

The ALA library bill of rights would disagree.