New State Laws are Forcing Schools to Remove Certain Books from their Libraries


Credit to Sadie Cotton

A group of books being banned from FHN’s library due to explicit graphics are shown. The law went into effect on Aug. 28 causing titles such as Flamer, This Book is Gay, and some Attack on Titan volumes to be removed from school libraries.

In the age of information, the balance between what should be withheld and what should be upheld becomes shakier everyday. Even now, there is still debate over how a bill passed in August should be enacted. Missouri Senate bill 775 makes it illegal for a school to distribute sexually explicit material, causing for many books to be removed from school libraries.

 “The law is very specific, it’s not about written words. It’s about pictures and images and videos,” David Brothers, the Director of Curriculum for the Francis Howell School District said. “You would have noticed that all those books were pulled from the shelves towards the start of the school year, and we had to go through each one and make sure that it was okay by the law.”

Finding which books need to be removed has been a challenge for schools. Many removed books have been the center of controversy, such as This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, a humorous book about LGBTQ+ sexualities that talks about details of queer sex often left out of school textbooks, and was consequently removed from school libraries for its crude drawings. 

“I just find it very convenient that the books that are banned are LGBTQ books, and I think that’s ridiculous,” Emily Winham, a parent in the Francis Howell School District said.

Another thing people find ridiculous is how this bill punishes violators. Rather than attacking the schools for holding the books, the bill charges the librarians or employees who distribute them. So if a school has a sexually explicit book and an employee loans it out to someone, they would have committed a Class A misdemeanor and could be charged with up to a year in jail or a $2,000 dollar fine.

“I don’t think that they should be fining librarians when it’s the school’s job to supply the books, the librarian’s just there to work, help out with the books,” Carter Houdeshell, a sophomore at FHN said. “They distribute it, but the school is the one with the greater power to define what books go into what libraries. The librarian shouldn’t be punished for that.”

On the other side of the coin, many people agree that sexually explicit material is not for kids, and this bill mostly effects people of young ages. Based on that, people believe that school libraries shouldn’t have sexually explicit material available for kids of all ages. Many people believe that schools should not be places for sexually explicit content, and that the choice of what a child should read needs to be with the parents, not the school.

“I would be very careful with what my 14-year-old daughter watches in movies, so I think I would be careful with what schools would present to my children,” Daniel Lamb, a US History and American Government teacher said.

Another thing that school districts need to be careful about is how they don’t always follow their own regulations perfectly. This bill makes schools review their libraries to ensure that every book follows the proper regulations for their school, which will help remove some of the gray area for what is and isn’t allowed.

“I believe it’s an overreaction to some loud voices in our community. But what was good about it is it does allow us to go through and review and make sure there really truly wasn’t anything that we would find objectionable,” Brothers said. “Our librarians, as amazing as they are, they order hundreds of books each year. And it’s not always possible to go through every single page. Often, they’re putting titles in based on recommendations and reviews and awards, and sometimes those titles have some inappropriate contact content. It was a good review for us.”

If there is one thing that is certain about this bill, it’s that there are many sides to it. A lot of uncertainty has arisen from everyone and the ways the bill is being enacted vary from place to place. There are valid arguments both for and against the bill. 

“There is a very delicate balance between censorship and stopping the flow of information,” Lamb said.