The Stupid, It Burns ... Books!
The far Right's war on students' right to read a goddamn book if they want to read a goddamn book — as well as grownups reading grownup books, as if that's somehow allowed either — continues across the country, with ever-more surreal battles being pursued in the name of protecting kids from things kids want to read. Put on your helmet and body armor, because the anti-book crazies are still going ballistic.
LAST WEEK! North Dakota GOP To Jail Librarians For Disgusting Sex Books, Including Images Of 'Gender Identity'
Kentucky: Librarian Wins Small Claims Case Over LGBTQ Book
In a fairly open-and-shut (you know, like a book!) case in Jefferson County District Court last week in Louisville, Kentucky, a small claims court judge tossed a case brought by a local bigot who had sued a high school librarian over her decision to include books on LGBTQ+ topics in the library. The man, Kurt Wallace, had sought "damages" of $2,300 because Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel had kept the award-winning memoir/essay collectionAll Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson in the library despite Wallace's attempts to make it and other LGBTQ books go away.
Heckel still had to take the day off from school to attend the hearing, a situation for which Judge Jennifer Leibson was apologetic. As Louisville Public Media explains, court records showed that Johnson
began sending letters to Heckel in the spring of 2022 objecting to the library’s purchase of "All Boys Aren’t Blue" and other titles Wallace claimed were “obscene” or “pornographic.” He also claimed the books were intended for “grooming” minors for sexual exploitation, a common unfounded and homophobic talking point among some right-wing activists.
We have to say that LPM reporter Jess Clark appears to have relished the chance to describe the courtroom drama, such as it was, noting that Judge Leibson began by explaining the purpose of small claims court, and what kinds of cases are and aren't allowed there.
Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.
He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.
“Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.
Wallace tried to argue with Leibson, demanding that she identify the statute that gave her the authority to dismiss his very valid claim, but she asked him to leave the courtroom, possibly before he insisted that her ruling was invalid because there was gold fringe on her flag. He returned a bit later and "sat in the public viewing area with his Bible in his lap."
Leibson apologized to Heckel for having to put up with the nonsense, and added "I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”
Honestly, we were hoping maybe Heckel would have sued Wallace for making her miss work, but she probably got paid for being there, since school district attorneys went along to defend her if that had been needed. [Louisville Public Media]
Pennsylvania: First They Came For The Inspirational Poster Featuring Elie Wiesel
In the Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a librarian at Central Bucks South High School says the school's principal told him to remove posters featuring a quote by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, because the posters supposedly violated a new policy banning educators from "advocacy activities."
Librarian Matt Pecic said Wednesday he'd been told to remove the posters because they featured a quote from Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Well sure, we can see why speaking up for the oppressed would be a terrible thing. The truly neutral action, as mandated by district policy, would be to allow the tormentors to do as they like, because who are you to decide they're wrong?
Pecic told public station WHYY that if the posters weren't removed, there would be "consequences" from the district's Human Resources office. He said he felt "powerless" to refuse.
“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” he said.
“It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with,” Pecic added.
Pecic added that his daugher, a ninth-grader in the district, had emailed him the quote.
“This is where I get choked up … She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you,’” Pecic said. He describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”
Or at least that's how things may have worked before fascists started terrorizing teachers and librarians.
The Central Bucks District has been the center of a discrimination lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which argues rightwing members of the school board have created a "hostile environment" for LGBTQ+ students in the district. The district is currently considering whether to remove as many as five books from district libraries, four of which have LGBTQ+ themes, under a new policy that makes books easier to ban. Parents are upset that the books will turn their kids gay, like teachers and librarians are always trying to do.
There's a semi-happy ending to the Wiesel quote story, at least: After the story blew up on social media, the principal reversed the decision and Pecic will be putting the posters back up.
So happy International Holocaust Remembrance Day, everyone. [WHYY, tip of the Wonkette Cat Ears to alert reader "MVario"]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.