NJEA officers: Book bans hurt students

NJEA’s officers, President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson, released this statement opposing attempts across New Jersey and the United States to ban books from school libraries and classrooms. Their statement also supports the right of students and families to have access to information and perspectives needed for a thorough and well-rounded education:

“We are deeply concerned by the growing number of efforts to ban a wide range of books from school libraries and classrooms. Such efforts are nothing less than a direct attack on our foundational values as a democracy including freedom of speech, the importance of honest public discourse, and the inherent value and equality of all people, regardless of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Our students deserve public schools that are bastions of truth, where they can be exposed to the diversity of people and experiences that make up our multicultural society. They deserve schools where they can learn the full account of both our history and our present so that they can be full participants in building a better, more just future.

“Banning books from school libraries is a form of lying to our children by preventing them from learning about the reality of certain experiences and events. Blocking them from experiencing the truth of history and human experience impedes their education, limits their understanding and teaches them to think of the truth as something to fear rather than something to embrace and grapple with.

“We are encouraged that some New Jersey school boards are standing up for children by resisting calls to ban books. The North Hunterdon Voorhees Board of Education recently rejected a bid to ban Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay and to affirmatively state that certain other frequently challenged books would remain accessible to NHV students. That is an important win for those students and for that community. No board member, parent or community member should be able to censor what someone else’s child is allowed to read.

“But for every story of a board of education standing up for students, the First Amendment and intellectual freedom, there are far too many stories of boards that are bullied into book banning or even doing so eagerly.

“History never celebrates individuals who ban books or societies that attempt to squelch freedom and access to information. We are in a perilous time in America. We must choose what sort of society we want to be and what sort of example we want to set for our students. We call on all Americans who value freedom, democracy and truth to stand against these efforts to deny our children access to important books.”