May 23, 2023 - Education

Forsyth Schools book bans may have violated Civil Rights Act

Illustration of a book wrapped in caution tape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Department of Education found that Forsyth County Schools' 2022 book banning "may have created a hostile environment for students."

Driving the news: The assessment comes after the department investigated whether Forsyth violated the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination for programs receiving federal education funding.

Flashback: Last year Forsyth banned eight books and limited four to high schools. The superintendent blamed it at the time on "obviously sexually explicit or pornographic" content.

  • After pushback and a review by a committee of teachers, media specialists and parents last summer, high schools are able to choose to offer seven of the eight.

Be smart: Three of the original eight removed books centered on characters of color and one on an LGBTQ protagonist, according to a Washington Post analysisincluding Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye."

The big picture: The result could affect how other districts handle book challenges.

  • It's "a quiet shot over the bow against school districts" banning books, Bruce Fuller, who studies education policy at the University of California at Berkeley, told the Post.

What's next: The district has agreed to draft a statement explaining its removal decision-making and acknowledge that removing books "may have impacted students."

  • It also must outline how students can file discrimination and harassment complaints, and it will administer a "school climate survey" of students this semester.

What they're saying: The district is "committed to providing a safe, connected, and thriving community for all students and their families" and with the implementation of the recommendations, "will further our mission to provide an unparalleled education," spokesperson Jennifer Caracciolo told Axios.

Of note: In 2022 Republican lawmakers passed a law to require local school boards to establish an expedited process to hear parental complaints regarding alleged "harmful" material.

The bottom line: The only book that remains banned is "All Boys Aren't Blue," by George M. Johnson, a memoir about the author's journey growing up as a queer Black man in the U.S., the Forsyth County News reports.

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