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Two books are back in District 20’s school libraries, after being removed in April

Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 04, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS—Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs is putting books back on the shelf after removing them from some school libraries. In April a number of parents complained two books had explicit sexual content and should not be accessible at school. The books are "Push" by Sapphire and "Identical" by Ellen Hopkins.

The former superintendent at the time received complaints for over 20 parents in the district stating books in the school libraries were obscenity.

According to the District 20 Chief Communication Officer, Allison Cortez, principles at each school determine how they are run. The former superintendent alerted the principals in District 20 about the concerns the parents had about the content in the books.

The former superintendent left it up to the principals at each school to decide whether or not to remove books from the libraries. Cortez said some schools did take the books off their shelves and some did not.

Cortez said the principals and superintendent can not actually decide whether or not books are taken or put on the shelves. Instead, liberty material must go through an official book challenge.

The District said they failed to do an official book challenge, but removed the books. Cortez said once the new superintendent began their duties on July 1st, they looked over the book incident again and identified they did not follow procedures.

Therefore the district had to put the book back in the school libraries. Cortez said the district's actions to put the books back on the shelves solely was decided because they took a misstep in not following protocol.

Whether or not the books "Push" and "Identical" belong in school has caused controversy between local and national activist groups.

Darcy Schoening is the Chapter Chair for the Moms for Liberty section in El Paso County. Schoening said these books among others describe sexually explicit content and she doesn't want her kids reading them.

“Some of the books we have found in district 20 schools are not age appropriate,” Schoening said.

Schoening does not want these books in school libraries.

“The superintendent and district 20 did not follow the proper process and quickly removed those books,”Schoening said.

Schoening wants to remove those two books along with others from school libraries. She talked specially about elementary school and middle schools having age appropriate books.

She described the books as using racial and sexual terms that are inappropriate to young students.

One District 20 parent disagreed with the quick removal of the books and decided to challenge the process.

The parents reached out to Annie Laurie Gaylor. Gaylor is the President of Freedom From Religion Foundation. It is a national organization that has assisted people in cases such as this one before, in Texas, Florida and Utah.

The parent challenged the district when they first made their decision to ban books claiming to have a complaint of his own, the Bible. According to Gaylor, the complaint's purpose was to demonstrate that if the district takes away books with explicit content based on parents' complaints, they must act equally and do the same for their complaint, the Bible.

“One of our attorneys wrote a legal complaint letter to the district saying they can’t have one standard for literature and one for holy books,” Gaylor said.

The district admitted they did follow their own guidelines. The Bible was not banned, instead the other two books were put back on the shelf.

Still, the controversy continues. Schoening said parents should have a say in what they kids have access to.

“We feel the parents should have the right to say we at least need to know if our kids are checking out these books, we need some sort of stake in this process,” Schoening said. "If you want to show your kids these books that basically porn more power to you. it's just not the role of the states,” Schoening said.

While Gaylor argues, students should have access to books and literature at school.

“Children should be allowed to check out any book they want. I got into school. They have books at the reading level, but to pull this from middle school and high school is censorship,” Gaylor said. "They can counsel their own children about how they feel about these books, but they can't deprive other people's children of the opportunity to read for themselves," Gaylor said.

Schoening wants proof of why some books on the shelves at libraries are educational. Gaylor said they are not for elementary students but they bring awareness and education to important topics such as abuse and women's rights.

Cortez said the number of official book challenges have increased significantly over the 2022-2023 school year. Five books went through the review process last year.

None of them were banned, but others were added.

Below is a list of books reconsidered in 2022-23 School Year for Chinook Trail Middle School:

  • How I Resist, Maureen Johnson
  • We Are Not Yet Equal, Carol Anderson
  • Steal This Country, Alexandra Styron
  • We Are Here to Stay, Susan Kuklin
  • Protest Movements: New and Now, Eric Braun

Books added to library as a result of challenges:

  • The Tuttle Twins Guide to … Courageous Heroes, Connor Boyack
  • The Tuttle Twins Guide to … Logical Fallacies, Connor Boyack
  • The Tuttle Twins Guide to … Beware Your Bias, Connor Boyack
  • The Tuttle Twins Guide to … Inspiring Entrepreneurs, Connor Boyack

If parents have an issue with books in schools or library material they should visit the District 20 website to read more about official book challenge and Recognition of library Material Request Form.
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