Anna Simms

The Wentzville School District has put more than 200 titles under investigation in response to Missouri SB 775.

Banned Books: A New Wave

A new Missouri Senate Bill threatens books by banning 'explicit sexual material' in schools

December 12, 2022

School districts banning books is nothing new, but only in recent years has it become more prominent.

“We actually went through this process last year, with I think six books last year,” Mrs. Kelly Oliva, a Liberty librarian, recounts. 

This past January, the Wentzville School District was among several school districts throughout the country that banned the award winning book, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. The book was off of the shelves until it returned a month later

Despite being sued by the ACLU for banning multiple books, including Morrison’s, there is currently a long list of books that are pending investigation in the Wentzville School District. 

Sophomore Marissa Varga holds up “1984” by George Orwell, one of many books banned in schools across the nation. (Anna Simms)

For avid readers, such as sophomore Marissa Varga, banning books is something that they are against. 

“A lot of the books that I’ve read are banned books, like ‘All the Bright Places,’ and ‘The Outsiders,’ which some schools have banned,” Varga explains. 

The new list of books being banned and challenged is in response to section 573.550 under Missouri Senate Bill 775. Under this section, it is determined that any person affiliated with either a public or private school, both elementary and secondary level, who knowingly “provides, assigns, supplies, distributes, loans, or coerces” a student with “explicit sexual material” will face legal consequences if found guilty. With that being said, being found guilty of this will result in a class A misdemeanor, which is the highest level of misdemeanor in Missouri and is punishable with “up to one year in jail; a fine not to exceed two thousand dollars.”

A local book store features a table filled with books that have been commonly banned. (Anna Simms)

Currently, there have been a total of 50 different titles banned in a variety of school districts, including Independence, Kirkwood, Lindbergh, Mehlville, North Kansas City, Raytown Quality Schools, Ritenour, Rockwood, Webster Groves, and Willard Public Schools. Along with that, there are currently 217 books in the Wentzville School District that could be banned pending investigation according to PEN America.

Books are one of the many sources of media that people can see people like themselves in, and are arguably more diverse than other forms of media such as movies and television shows. 

“I think unfortunately it [banning books] is used to try and remove those stories that people really need to see themselves in,” Oliva said. “When we start removing stories from our collection, it sort of wipes out certain people.”

If you would like to view the full list of books that have been banned or are pending investigation in Missouri according to PEN America, click here.

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