Biden’s Education Department waded into the controversy about explicit books in schools by punishing a school district that removed sexual content from its library shelves.
In May, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a letter to Forsyth County Public Schools telling the Georgia district it may have created a “hostile environment” for students by removing sexually explicit books from school libraries. As a result, OCR would be requiring the district to conduct a “climate survey” and “promote diversity” through its library collections.
The Defense of Freedom Institute, an education nonprofit for which I am a spokesperson, issued a letter to OCR telling it to back off the school district and detailing this illegal and unethical overreach of federal power. So far, OCR has not reversed course.
The entire premise of the resolution agreement is absurd. Removing R-rated content is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights, and it certainly does not create a hostile environment. What does create a hostile environment, however, is overruling the wishes of parents by forcing a school district to make explicit material available to their children.
The issue of what does or does not belong in school libraries belongs at the local level, where parents should have a strong say in what content is available to their kids at school. It has never been the role of the federal government to decide which books are, or are not, on library shelves.
The only way OCR might conceivably have a legitimate reason to step in is if the district had yanked books because they contain characters of a certain race, sex, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic. But that’s not what happened here; these books were not challenged on the grounds of characters’ identities. They were challenged on the grounds that they are inappropriate for children.
One title, “L8r, g8r,” contains a discussion of drug abuse, sex toys, and sex acts. Another, “Out of Darkness,” depicts the violent sexual assault of a minor in detail. It is not hard to imagine why parents would not want this in the hands of their children. A diverse library collection does not require stories like these, and pretending it does is an insult to the very groups of people OCR is claiming to champion.
Seven of the eight challenged books were placed back on shelves before OCR forced the district into a resolution agreement. The fact that the Department of Education would step in, even after all but one of the books was restored to library catalogs, signals that this never really was about the books in the first place. Instead, the Department of Education found a school district it could make an example out of and, in doing so, warn other districts that they might face a federal investigation if they dare listen to the well-founded concerns of parents.