Northland Battles Book Censorship

Jacob Eischen, Journalism 1 reporter

James Richmond takes the stand; he stands tall, adjusts the microphone, and leans in. Another man situates himself beside Richmond, holding two large posters. Richmond begins to address the North Kansas City School District Board of Education.

Richmond heads the organization known as the Northland Parents Association, NPA.  The NPA recently brought its concerns to the attention of many Northland school districts about the content of over 20 books featured in school libraries. In October, Richmond spoke about his concerns at a North Kansas City School District board meeting.

“I’m shocked and absolutely aggravated at what is in our school systems, what’s in our school libraries and what is available to these students,” Richmond said, aggressively tapping the books that lie in front of him.

Richmond spoke about the graphic novel “Fun Home” specifically, and provided images from the book, including an illustration where two characters were performing sexual acts. Richmond also continued to quote the book, “Boy Out of Darkness” and mentioned a sexually explicit scene between a female slave and a male slave owner.

We need to allow students to hear and read stories that include experiences that they can relate to.”

— senior Gracie Cates

“If I were to hand this material out to a minor, or read, or give, any of these books to a minor, I would be charged with solicitation of a minor,” Richmond argued.

The books “Fun Home” and “Boy Out of Darkness” are just a few of the books the NPA has asked to be removed from high school libraries across the Northland area. However, many students, parents, and teachers aren’t as willing to pull books off the shelf.

“I would not feel good about making that decision,” said school librarian Angela Van Batavia.

One of the biggest controversies of the NPA’s book ban proposal is the content of the books. The Northland Student Association, NSA, is one of the many adversaries of the book ban, starting a petition to stop it.

“All of the books they [NPA] have targeted have a clear bias towards people of color, woman, or LGBTQIA+ people,” the NSA claims in the description of their petition.

As of Monday, Dec. 6, there have been over 1,100 signatures on the NSA’s digital petition. Many students are in support of the NSA and its fight to keep books on school shelves.

“It’s inappropriate. Demanding that they take out these books is disgusting.” said sophomore Tristan Young, a part of the LGBT+ community.

As time went on, outraged at the suggestion of a book ban, many students from North Kansas City High attended the November NKCS board meeting to voice their opinions and share their opposition. Ten students spoke that evening, one after another, making their voices heard.

“We need to allow students to hear and read stories that include experiences that they can relate to,” said senior Gracie Cates.

“When you eliminate information, it cannot be used to justify a point of view and thus no opposing argument can be made,” said senior Lynn Nguyen.

“Students of this district, the learning majority, will continue to fight for the quality learning experience we deserve. And on this, me and my peers stand together,” said senior Charles Moloney.

The books Richmond highlighted were taken off school shelves for a short time in mid-November but placed back on the shelves after the backlash from students and parents alike. New rules have been put in place however, if a parent wishes for their student not to check out a book, they must fill out a form and make the school librarian aware.

“Parents have the right to limit what their kids read, but not what other kids read.” said Van Batavia.

As outrageous as it might sound to some, the NPA is not the only group of parents to suggest a book ban. Parents across the country are calling for books to be pulled out of schools.

The Waukee school district in Iowa discussed a plan to remove books with sexually explicit content from all the school libraries.

At a board meeting in a Virginia School district, Spotsylvania County Public Schools, the board unanimously ordered the removal of sexually explicit books from school libraries.

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said Spotsylvania School board member Rabih Abuismail.