Tennessee librarians oppose attempt to ban books in Chattanooga

As a Chattanooga school board is poised to debate who has the authority to approve or remove books from school libraries, librarians in Tennessee are speaking out.

Representatives from the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, the Tennessee Library Association and the Friends of Tennessee Libraries speak out against recent censorship attempts by Hamilton County School Board Rhonda Thurman.

Thurman, a long-time board member, expressed concern in an editorial last week about the use of profanity and references to sex and violence depicted in library books found in county schools. Hamilton.

“The volume of what has been sent to me is mind-boggling. I still don’t believe this madness is allowed in our school libraries and classrooms,” Thurman said in the opinion piece, first reported. by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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Thurman referred to four books: “More Than We Can Tell” by Brigid Kemmerer, “On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas, “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and called on them to be removed.

"The hate you give" is a bestselling young adult novel by author Angie Thomas (pictured).  The book is one of four books recently characterized as featuring "despicable content" by Rhonda Thurman, Hamilton County School Board Member.

But Tennessee librarians argue that students’ “freedom to read and unhindered access to information” is protected by their First Amendment rights.

“Not every book is for all readers, but every child should have access to the books they want to read. School librarians strive to get to know learners and help them find books that match their needs and interests. Easy access to a wide variety of reading materials increases the chances that learners will become readers and choose to read, ”read a statement from the groups released Thursday.

“A parent / guardian has the right to determine what is best for their child and only their child. Therefore, the review processes already in place should be strictly followed.

“… We oppose censorship in school libraries on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and against the professional ethics of librarianship, and processes for challenge and removal are already in place at the school district level. local.”

The Hamilton County School Board is expected to discuss the district’s policy to reconsider literacy materials at a board meeting on Thursday.

Thurman said the books were first brought to his attention by a parent member of the Hamilton County Chapter of Moms for Liberty, a conservative national parenting rights group, according to the Times Free Press.

The debate comes as the state grapples with how to approach topics such as race, racism, sexuality and other social issues in schools in light of recent legislation passed this spring to ban schools to teach critical race theory and some LGBTQ topics.

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Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” made the list of the most contested books of 2020, but the best-selling young adult novel was also made into a feature film in 2018.

The book has even been at the center of Hamilton County Book Clubs and was named by the school district as “Book of the Week” in January 2019.

Representatives from Chattanooga’s Moms for Social Justice plan to speak at Thursday’s school board meeting and “fight for diverse literature” in local schools.

The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST.

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Meghan Mangrum is covering education for the USA TODAY – Tennessee Network. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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