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ACLU counts fewer banned books in Texas, but still no process to reinstate them

In its 15th annual report on banned, challenged or restricted books in Texas schools, the Americans Civil Liberties Union found the number of books banned by school districts has decreased in the 2010-2011 school year from the year before.

Of the 750 school districts involved in the study, banning has lessened from 20 to 17 books. The most frequent type of forbidden books came from the Young Adult (or YA) genre, for mentions of teen sex, AIDS, gay/lesbian relationships, drug use and cursing. Other problematic areas included “scary castles,” zombies and vampires.

Books removed from school shelves include Alice on the Outside by Phillis Reynolds Naylor, Tangled by Carolyn Markler, and The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney.

Not all books reported were “banned” outright by districts. Some restricted access to certain books by age, reading level and parental permission. Others were challenged and ultimately retained. In one instance, naked photos from Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary prompted restricted usage from a San Antonio elementary school. Classic science fictions tales including Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (challenged for “sexual content or nudity” and “offensive to religious beliefs,”) and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (eventually reinstated) were met with opposition from concerned parents.

A video entitled “Visit into the Daily Lives of Muslim Teenagers,” was also challenged for offense to religious beliefs as well as drugs and alcohol; the Southlake ISD provided an alternate book choice for students.

While the ACLU reported the number of books banned has slowed, they also discovered few school districts employ a process to dispute a challenge to barred literature. “Once a book is banned, it is usually banned forever,” the civil liberties group writes.

Censorship of the YA genre is troubling, the ACLU notes, because those are the books that motivate and help cultivate an interest in reading.

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