Book bans hit another record high: PEN America

After already soaring to record peaks, book bans in U.S. schools have hit a new high, according to free speech advocacy group PEN America.

In the first half of the current school year, the group found more than 4,000 instances of book bans, beating the number found in the entire 2022-23 academic year.

The new record high far outpaced the first half of the 2022-23 school year, which saw a then-record of nearly 1,500 bans.

“For anyone who cares about the bedrock of American values and the protection of free expression, this report should be a red alert,” said Sabrina Baêta, Freedom to Read program manager at PEN America and a lead author of the report.

The report, from July to December, found bans in 23 states and 52 school districts.

Many of the books that faced backlash focused on rape, sexual violence and women, along with topics of racism and LGBTQ individuals.

“Book bans are targeting narratives about race and sexual identities and sexual content writ large, and they show no sign of stopping. The bans we’re seeing are broad, harsh, and pernicious — and they’re undermining the education of millions of students across the country,” Baêta said.

From July 2021 to last December, Pen America has recorded more than 10,000 instances of book bans.

Florida has had the most at more than 3,000, while Kentucky and Virginia have experienced the least.

PEN America also highlighted efforts by students and teachers to protest book bans or create alternative routes so kids can find threatened titles, such as through banned-book clubs.

The group defines a school book ban as action taken against a book from the community or administrators that leads a book to be completely removed or restricted when it was once available.

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