Banned Books Week is a particularly painful month for Oklahoma. October, which is also 2SLGBTQ+ History Month, marks two years since the ACLU of Oklahoma and partners filed suit against the state’s classroom censorship law, enacted by the passage of HB 1775. The law’s vague language limits what can be taught in Oklahoma classrooms. Race and gender place severe limitations on what Oklahoma students can learn.
This year’s Banned Book Week will be held from October 1st to 7th and will feature the following themes: Feel free to read it. This national event brings attention to literary censorship and how it affects local communities. Banned Books Week raises awareness of both banned books (books that have been removed or restricted from educational settings) and challenged books (books that are facing removal attempts). Challenges can come from anyone, including elected officials, community groups, and even individuals. In fact, a national analysis conducted by The Washington Post found that “in the 37 states analyzed by the Post, just 11 people are responsible for the majority of the 1,000 issues.”
Since the passage of HB 1775, additional bills related to classroom and library censorship have been proposed every Congress, and although none have passed, the state superintendent and the governor have not been able to pass any legislation related to the treatment of Summer, a former Norman High School teacher. continues to be subject to additional legal implications, including: Mr. Boamier posted his QR code link to the Brooklyn Public Library Book Ban Project.
Across the country, state authorities are censoring educators and undermining equitable education programs. This systematic attack on inclusive education also includes banning books. The ACLU has long supported inclusivity in education and will continue to do so for the future of learning in Oklahoma.
As HB 1775 continues to censor conversations about race and gender in classrooms across Oklahoma, we position Banned Books Week as a time to fight back against further censorship and celebrate the freedom to read. Banned Book Week is one week a year that is just a reminder to keep fighting to protect our right to read, learn, and share ideas, free from viewpoint-based censorship.
Cindy Nguyen is policy director for the ACLU of Oklahoma.