Mixed results for efforts to ban certain books from Mo. schools

Friday, July 20, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Recent efforts to restrict Missouri students' classroom or library access to certain books have met with mixed results, new research by the University of Missouri School of Journalism shows.

The Columbia Missourian reported bans or restrictions have been considered on more than 50 books in 32 Missouri school districts since 2008. Graduate journalism students relied on more than 560 public records requests to compile the data.

The banned books include Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" in Republic, though the district later reversed its decision. In a 2009 case, a parent in Jackson unsuccessfully sought a ban on "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. In Camdenton, Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" was removed as required reading in an honors English class but remained on the school's library shelves.

Twelve of the 53 documented challenges resulted in a book's removal, with another 11 challenges resulting in restrictions. Twenty-nine challenges were unsuccessful. The result of one challenge wasn't reported. The North Kansas City School District reported seven challenges, the highest number among districts to respond. Seventy-one of the students' 566 Sunshine Law requests to each of the state's local school districts went unanswered.

The reasons for book challenges include concern over sexual themes and language, violent content, racial slurs and religious references. Other taboo topics involved self-injury, drugs and alcohol.

Nationwide, the American Library Association lists 1,647 book challenges from 2008 through 2011 and more than 6,300 over the past two decades. Most involved K-12 schools, but others involved books in prisons, theaters, museums and university libraries.

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