diversity: PIO student-led stir reverses ban on diversity books in US

Edha Gupta and Christina Ellis, two high school seniors in York County, Pennsylvania, were furious when they read last month in a local paper that their teachers had been effectively banned from using hundreds of books, documentary films and articles in their classrooms.
The list, which was created in 2020 by a diversity committee in the Central York School District, was meant to serve as a resource guide for students and teachers as they grappled with the racial and social turmoil that followed the murder of George Floyd. It included a documentary about James Baldwin and a statement on racism by the state’s association of school administrators. It also included kids’ books like “A Boy Called Bat,” about a third grader with autism and “I Am Rosa Parks”.
But what began as an effort to raise awareness somehow ended with the materials on the list being banned from classrooms by the district’s school board in a little-noticed vote last November. Some parents in the district had objected to materials that they feared could be used to make white kids feel guilty about their race or “indoctrinate” students.
“I was ready to go to battle,” said Ellis, 17. She and Gupta, 17, recruited other students to wear black T-shirts to school in protest. They created signs that read “Diversity is our strength” They began protesting every day before school.
They started writing letters to the editor and reading excerpts from the banned books on Instagram. The controversy drew national media attention. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, and some of the authors whose books were on the list voiced support. On September 13, the school board met to discuss the list but again voted to keep the materials from being used in class.
The students continued their protests. Less than three weeks after the students began their campaign, the board met again, on September 20, and temporarily lifted the freeze. The board said that its November 2020 vote was not intended to be a ban, but rather an effort to give a curriculum panel time to review the materials. Jane Johnson, president of the school board, said that while the board recognised the importance of diversity, it was concerned about materials that “may lean more toward indoctrination rather than age-appropriate academic content.”

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