Is there a solution to book banning in Georgia?

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With the recent banning of hundreds of books in Florida and Illinois passing groundbreaking legislation to outlaw such bans, where does Georgia stand in this political and cultural controversy?

This story is from a special collaboration between SCAD and Rough Draft Atlanta. To read more stories from SCAD students, visit our SCAD x Rough Draft hub.

Since 2022, Florida has made the process of banning and challenging books easier, this caused backlash that the state is now trying to correct due to abuse of the process. The ban on book bans in Illinois is the first of its kind, but its broad rules have confused advocates.

The state of Georgia has seen fewer book bans and challenges, but there have been no solutions to the issue. Daniel Cruz, a Free Expression and Education program coordinator at advocacy group PEN America, said that not all book bans are reported, so Georgia’s real status is unknown.  

Daniel believes children need as much access to books as possible “Because you have rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. So not every book is for every person and that’s okay, but if you want to read a book, you should be able to read it.”

One notable book-banning case in Cobb County led to the firing of teacher Katie Rinderle, who read “My Shadow is Purple,” a picture book about gender fluidity, to her class.

In 2022, Georgia passed Senate Bill 226 that allows parents of a particular school to be the only voice suggesting a book ban in their school– making it harder for national organizations to challenge bans. This bill puts the power into the hands of the parents, but Tiffany Armstead-Flowers, an assistant teacher at Georgia State University who is working on a project to eliminate book deserts, argues that the decision should be in the hands of librarians and teachers who have the training to know what should and shouldn’t be banned.

According to Armstead-Flowers, “I think when you start putting decisions in the hands of people who don’t have the academic training to do it, it’s going to be a problem. It’s like having a nurse decide whether someone needs surgery or not, instead of a surgeon.” 

Right-wing groups like Moms for Liberty have been working around the parameters of Bill 226 by working directly with parents to ban books. Often, these bans target books about LGBTQ+ people and people of color. Parents can submit lists of books they want banned, which requires the school system to remove and review the titles before a ban is approved or denied.

A poll by the American Library Association found that 67 percent of voters oppose removing books from school libraries. However, according to Armstead-Flowers, if people aren’t participating in voting, and if they aren’t looking out for these bans, then “somebody could come along and decide they don’t want children to read any books.” 

Roberta Gardner, a reading and literacy education professor at Kennesaw State University, said one way to work towards solving this issue is to let students get more involved and teach them how to become more active in this discussion.

Gardner said students getting involved can often help push forward changes in attitude and policy towards book bans. 

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