EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – Edmond and Bristow Public Schools responded to a list of banned books that has circulated around social media claiming that the districts have multiple books currently banned from their school libraries.
The list is a function of one of Pen America’s Focus Issues.
The nonprofit works to highlight literature across the country.
Book bans is one issue the organization focuses on.
On their website, they have an index that tracks all the books that have been banned or challenged in school districts in the US.
Pen America shows 38 books banned or challenged in Bristow Public Schools and five books for Edmond Public Schools.
“Edmond Public Schools does not ban books,” said Susan Parks-Schlepp, communications director of Edmond Public Schools.
The list of Edmond books:
- “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry
- “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
- “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
- “An American Slave” by Frederick Douglas
“’A Raisin in the Sun,’ ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and ‘An American Slave’ are all optional texts,” said Parks-Schlepp. “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ remains a student choice read for 9th-grade Intro to Advanced students. “‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ has never been a required text but is not banned.”
The list of books circulated around social media over the holiday weekend.
Jeremy Young, senior manager of Pen America, said books are considered banned even if the books has simply been moved from one age group to another.
“Taking material chosen for school libraries through the normal selection process, and restricting it because of its content or viewpoint as part of a challenge, is a form of book banning,” said Young, in an email.
Books can also be considered banned if they are removed from the shelves during a review or when the book is being challenged.
Curtis Shelton, Superintendent of Bristow Public Schools, said no book from his district has ever been banned.
In a Facebook post from January 5, the district said that a review was being conducted on books.
“All books that have been in question are currently out of circulation and being reviewed. BPS wants to ensure that all content is considered age/grade appropriate and that transparency of materials is available to parents,” said the district.
But less than a full week later on January 11, the review was complete.
In the review, it said out of the 47 books brought by a community group, “Nine were not found anywhere within Bristow Public Schools. Eight books have been removed from circulation. Thirty will remain in circulation.”
KFOR is working to get clarification from Superintendent Shelton on the eight books removed from circulation.
Shelton did not agree with the definition of banned books, according to Pen America.
Shelton acknowledged that three books were challenged, but those books never left the shelves, and the books ultimately stayed in the district.
There are 38 books associated with Bristow on the Pen America index.
When asked where Pen America gets their information from, Young said “public news sources and Bristow’s publicly-available report on the review of the books.”
For information about Edmond, the nonprofit is “relying on the ACLU of Oklahoma’s lawsuit regarding the bans of these five books, and particularly the statements made by the plaintiffs in the case.”
Edmond Public Schools denied ever removing books, which were claims made in the lawsuit.
Both Bristow and Edmond Public Schools stress they’ve never heard directly from Pen America.