WENTZVILLE — The Wentzville School Board voted 7-0 Tuesday to keep a disputed book in school libraries, just hours after students filed a lawsuit against the district for removing other books.
Two students sued the Wentzville School District in federal court on Tuesday for violating their civil rights by banning books from school libraries, including “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri are representing the two students, who are identified only by the initials CK-W. and DL in the class action.
The removal of books threatens students’ ability “to learn and engage with a diversity of ideas and information, including seeing their own experiences reflected in books and developing a better understanding of the experiences of others”, according to the lawsuit, which is seeking to have the books returned to school libraries.
Also on Tuesday, the Wentzville Board of Directors unanimously approved the district book challenge committee’s recommendation to retain Isabel Quintero’s “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.” The book, a coming-of-age story of a Mexican-American teenager, had been challenged by Renee Henke for foul language and depiction of rape.
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“I thought it offered some value to a teenager, and I think there were some good lessons that I’m sure would be learned,” said board member Sandy Garber, who was doing part of the review committee.
Last month, Garber voted with a majority of the board to remove Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” from district high school libraries following a challenge from another parent. The board rejected the review committee’s recommendation to retain the book in school libraries.
The ban drew backlash from librarians and residents, sparking a fundraising campaign by a local bookstore to distribute 500 copies of the novel.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the district also removed George Johnson’s ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’, Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’, Kiese Laymon’s ‘Heavy’, Lisa Jewell’s ‘Invisible Girl’, ‘Lawn Boy ” by Jonathan Evison and “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari from its libraries.
According to the lawsuit, the books are part of a “targeted campaign by the St. Charles County Parent Association and the Missouri Chapter of No Left Turn in Education to suppress particular ideas and views about race and the sexuality of school libraries”.
The Wentzville District did not respond to requests for information about the additional books named in the lawsuit.
In November, the North Kansas City School District backtracked and returned “All Boys Are Not Blue” and “Fun Home” to libraries after receiving a warning letter from the ACLU of Missouri.