A Win Against Censorship North Hunterdon-Voorhees NJ School District
The New Jersey Association of School Librarians and EveryLibrary would like to commend the seven members of the North Hunterdon Voorhees Board of Education who voted down Resolution 012522-9, which called for the removal of This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson.
We also applaud the passing of the resolutions to keep the books Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Gender Queer, All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Lawn Boy on the library’s shelves. This decision upholds North Hunterdon’s students’ First Amendment rights by protecting their access to information. It affirms the ability of students to read age-appropriate LGBTQIA+ books and not marginalize their own stories. It is the right way for the school district to follow state education standards and support the role of school libraries in learning, inquiry, and reading.
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In the North Hunterdon-Voorhees school district, the NH-V Intellectual Freedom Fighters (NHVIFF), a dedicated group of parents, residents and educators, came together to campaign against the ban and to support the school librarian. The NHVIFF was well-organized and engaged, acting as a local watchdog group to monitor how the district made its decision, whether it followed school district policies, and if there was a timely and fair hearing about the books. NHVIFF also helped organize other stakeholders to participate in the school board meetings, speak to the press, and provide support and encouragement to affected students and families. As their campaign progresses, NJASL and EveryLibrary were proud to support their efforts by providing technical assistance and support in the form of letters and testimony regarding intellectual freedom issues and the role of school libraries in education.
According to the Supreme Court decision in Island Trees vs. Pico (“Island Trees School District v. Pico”), school libraries are considered places of voluntary inquiry. The Supreme Court ruled that materials may not be removed from libraries just for the ideas contained in them. School districts should have board-approved selection policies providing for certified school library media specialists to select materials that speak to a wide range of maturity levels, interest levels, cultural differences, and that explore various sides of controversial issues.
Should there be future challenges in NH-V, we urge the district to carry out a transparent and efficient reconsideration process. Any reconsideration committee should include a diverse representation of the school community and, most importantly, involve students. A member of the library staff should be consulted and kept abreast of any additional challenges. Library staff can help the committee save valuable time and assist committee members in making informed decisions by providing professional reviews and context behind the selection of materials.
As NH-V Board of Education Member Robert Kirchberger stated at the January 25,2022 meeting, a very high bar should be set whenever there is a discussion of banning books. By discussing and debating the resolutions put forth by the reconsideration committee, the NHV BOE has set that bar. We thank you for the hard work and volunteer hours you dedicate to the NHV school community.
The New Jersey Association of School Librarians is the only statewide organization for school librarians in New Jersey. We advocate for high standards for librarianship and library media programs in the public, private and parochial schools in New Jersey to inspire excellence in school librarianship and learning. https://www.njasl.org/about_us
EveryLibrary is a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building support for libraries. Through its SaveSchoolLibrarians.org digital communications platform and related pro-bono consulting services, EveryLibrary has provided tactical and strategic advising and support to school library communities on education and tax policy, along with supporting school leaders in challenges to budgets and positions in schools and districts across the country. http://everylibrary.org