Alan J. Singer writes about Missouri’s bid to be the state with the most censorship in schools and libraries.

He writes:

The State of Missouri may have to change its nickname from “Show-Me-State” to “It’s against the law to show me!” According to a report from PEN America, in response to a new state law, this fall Missouri schools removed almost 300 books from library…

The State of Missouri may have to change its nickname from “Show-Me-State” to “It’s against the law to show me!”

According to a report from PEN America, in response to a new state law, this fall Missouri schools removed almost 300 books from library shelves. They include Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus about the Holocaust,graphic novels based on George Orwell’s 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Bible, and the Gettysburg Address, art history books with naked subjects, and comic books about Batman and X-Men.Leviticus in the Old Testament has a lot of rules about sex and apparently the New Testament starts with too many “begats.” The new law establishes criminal penalties for exposing students to “explicit sexual material.” More than half of the books are about or written by LGBTQ+ people or people of color.

PEN America calls the Missouri book banning a “grave threat to the freedom to read.” It is the latest in a wave of “mass removals of books, new legislative proposals targeting publishers, and the passage of restrictive school district policies.” Nearly 100 books were recently pulled from Beaufort, South Carolina school libraries, a proposed Texas law would require publishers to create a rating system for school library books, and a number of states and school districts are afraid of any reference to gender fluidity.

Senate Bill 775, which went into effect in August 2022 was supposed to address the rights of survivors of sexual assault. However, an amendment pasted into the bill classified “providing explicit sexual material to a student” as a class A misdemeanor and subjects “any person affiliated with a school in an official capacity” to arrest. In response, at least 11 school districts starting purging books from the school library.

A spokesperson for a district that banned fourteen books was quoted in the St. Louis Dispatch. “The unfortunate reality of Senate Bill 775 is that, now in effect, it includes criminal penalties for individual educators. We are not willing to risk those potential consequences and will err on the side of caution on behalf of the individuals who serve our students.”

PEN America has posted an online petition addressed toMissouri School Boards and Districts. You can add your name at this link. A number of prominent authors have signed the letter. They include Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Roxane Gay, Lois Lowry, and Art Spiegelman.

Please open the link to read the PEN petition and add your name.