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Nampa school board pulls 24 books from district shelves, book bans sparking national debate

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Posted at 3:43 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 21:54:49-04

NAMPA, Idaho — Two dozen books are being pulled from libraries in the Nampa School District following a Monday vote by trustees to ban the titles – forever.

During a regular school board meeting Monday night, Nampa trustees approved the removal of 24 books in a 3-2 vote. Trustees Mandy Simpson and Brook Taylor dissented.

The now-banned titles range from well-known classics – like The Handmaid’s Tale — to new age dramas recently turned into television series and movies. The list also includes an informative coming-of-age health book titled “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.”

The complete list of now-banned books is available here.

PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom of expression, has tracked the number of book bans annually since 2000. According to a recent PEN America report, nearly 1,600 books have been banned from U.S. schools in the last nine months - the most the nonprofit's seen in two decades.

Last month, the American Library Association published its annual "State of America's Libraries" report covering book censorship. In the document, ALA stated there were 729 known challenges to library, school and university materials in 2021. According to the report, the most common reasons people tried to censor books were for LGBTQ, obscene, racial or sexual content.

American Library Association, 2022 "State of America's Libraries" report

Library materials became a large discussion in the Idaho legislature this year, notably after a bill that would have fined librarians $1,000 or sent them to jail for allowing a minor to check our harmful material began making its way through the statehouse.

“I would rather my 6-year-old grandson start smoking cigarettes tomorrow than get a view of this stuff one time at the public library," said Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug from Nampa.

While the legislation did not pass, lawmakers cut several million dollars from the state library commission's annual budget.

"The money allows the pornography," said Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt from Idaho Falls. “You think that maybe sending a message doesn’t matter? I guarantee sending a message matters.”

Related: Lawmakers deemed some books 'obscene materials': What that actually looks like

Concerned parents in the district brought forward the list of titles to trustees earlier this year, arguing the material contained sexual content, pornography or material inappropriate for children.

Nampa trustees said the list was discussed at length during a board work session and previously reviewed by an in-house committee. According to board documents, the panel included school librarians, district personnel, educators, and parents.

Of the 24 titles, the committee recommended none be removed from district shelves. The panel recommended 18 books for further review to weigh sexual content against “educational value,” the documents said.

However, trustees supporting the ban said waiting to remove the books could expose the materials to more students.

“By that time, we’ve traumatized or caused mental destruction to these students,” Vice-chair Tracey Pearson said. “I think it’s too long, and in the process could add lifetime trauma to a child who does not need to be experimenting with something that they have read about. It is very destructive and scary.”

Tracey Pearson

Not all board members were on board.

"I just have a hard time with forever when a process hasn't been completed to actually analyze and look through things," Trustee Mandy Simpson said.

Related: Book bans at public school libraries are on the rise

Under NSD Policy 2510, individual school principals have the authority to select library materials. According to the policy, the principal can delegate that authority to the school librarian.

Individuals can “challenge” what materials are in the school library/media center under the “Uniform Grievance Procedure” — Policy 4120.