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Book bans accelerate in Ohio as new bill aims to prohibit 'controversial' topics

Library books
Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 23:16:46-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Calls for book bans are quickly becoming more and more common across Ohio. Just in the past school year, at least four books have been pulled from the shelves at the Hudson City Schools District.

The books, 642 Things to Write About, A Girl on the Shore, Gender Queer and Lawn Boy, all contain language that has been quoted as "inappropriate," "offensive," or "sexually perverse."

One is a book for Hudson High School's senior College Credit Plus writing class that has a writing prompt that asked the user to "write a sex scene you wouldn't show your mom." This prompt was not assigned, nor had it ever been assigned to students. The next features a heterosexual teenage relationship in which the couple has sex. The following is a memoir about gender identity. The last is a book that features a homosexual relationship in which the couple has sex.

Besides the writing prompt book, the remaining "are/were simply library books in our high school library. They are not- and never were- part of our curriculum," the HCSD spokesperson said. 642 Things to Write About was taken off their curriculum.

Each book was pulled down for review. Lawn Boy was reinstated for library reading, A Girl on the Shore was removed entirely, and Gender Queer is currently being debated.

"This is not the 1950s, we want our kids to be prepared for the 21st century," mother-of-two Katie Paris said. "Our kids can get a high quality education, and that means learning real history, not fairy tales."

Paris has become concerned with Northeast Ohio education, so much so that she started an education fund called Book Ban Busters. Although her kids go to Shaker Heights, not Hudson, she is working for all schools.

"That means being prepared for diverse and changing world, so learning to respect each other across our differences," she continued. "That means being willing to learn other perspectives that may not necessarily be your own."

She and others fight against the removal of certain books because they could be perceived as inappropriate.

"If that's really not something that you want your kid exposed to find them out, have that communication and make that happen for your kid," Paris said. "But don't take that opportunity away from everybody else's family."

Her efforts have only been intensified since House Bill N.O. 327 was introduced by state Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula).

Known as the “divisive concepts” bill, the legislation prohibits the teaching of topics that can be seen as controversial.

"We want them to not shy away from historically difficult topics or topics that make people feel uncomfortable," the representative said. "But at the same time, they need not compel students to speak or act from the bias that they are inferior."

The bill has changed significantly from public outcry on the vagueness of what is a "divisive concept," with some citing that under the bill – slavery, the Holocaust and LGBTQ+ literature – could be seen as offensive. The bill removed the term divisive concepts and is now moving forward with the removal of “promoting certain concepts.” In original language of the bill, it stated that one could not teach the that United States was inherently racist, or had racist beginnings.

"I am very, very wary of ceding any of that power to the state to be able to come in and censor and determine what is the right concept and what isn't," Hudson state Representative Casey Weinstein said. "This was something that I really feared when we started talking about banning divisive concepts or banning books — that we would start to shy away from real history, challenging history, ultimately issues that we have to grapple with, like the Holocaust.

"This is an issue that I think is absolutely critical that we educate our kids on. When we start backing away from the reality of what that was, we're no longer educating about the Holocaust or genocide or war and the true impacts of that."

Most of the testimony in favor of the bill comes from parents and organizations such as Ohio Value Voters. OVV told News 5 that learning about certain historical events, like slavery, can make white children feel guilty and ashamed. Critical race theory, which has not nor has ever been taught in Ohio K-12, is racist and shouldn't be taught, their spokesperson added.

The bill has had five hearings in the House State and Local Government Committee. The next hearing it should be taking a vote, a source close to the matter said.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.