By Kevin Barragan and Alyssa Eng
DETROIT– The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan this week sent a letter encouraging Michigan public school districts to protect students’ constitutional rights by opposing statewide book banning efforts.
In the letter, sent to school superintendents and school board presidents across Michigan, the ACLU emphasized the necessity of a learning environment that emphasizes diversity and critical thinking.
While cautioning that banning books from school libraries is a violation of students’ First Amendment rights, the ACLU’s letter also notes the alarming anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that has accompanied the censorship efforts.
According to the letter, book banning has historically been an attempt to marginalize already underrepresented voices.
The letter highlights how censoring library books limits students’ engagement with important topics including racism, sexual orientation, and gender diversity.
The ACLU said imposing a ban on books that discuss such important issues deprives students from engaging with and learning the values of diversity and democracy, the letter explains.
The letter details how school libraries are in a unique position to provide an inclusive learning environment, and limiting students’ exposure to these important concepts prevents students’ access to ideas that can enhance their learning abilities and discover themselves throughout their youth.
“Together with public school students and their families all over the state, the ACLU of Michigan is monitoring this situation carefully and will take action if necessary to stop censorship and protect the rights of all children to safe and inclusive learning environments,” said ACLU of Michigan LGBTQ+ Rights Project Staff Attorney Jay Kaplan.
Kaplan added, “In addition to threatening the First Amendment rights of all students, this wave of book-banning is an attack on LGTBQ+ children and their families, and it must be stopped. For countless youth who face bullying, isolation, and depression, access to LGBTQ+ representation or information in books and literature can be a refuge — and in some cases lifesaving.
“School libraries are places where young people should be able to learn about themselves and people who are different from themselves, not denied access to the diverse perspectives that books and literature offer us all,” said Kaplan.