This State is Introducing One of the U.S.’ Strictest Public School Book Bans

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 01, 2024

South Carolina has enacted one of the most restrictive public school book bans in the United States, affecting schools and libraries across the state. 

The law was initiated by Ellen Weaver, the superintendent of education and an ally of the Moms for Liberty group, requiring all reading material to be considered “age or developmentally appropriate.”

Legislation's Ambiguous Language

The law’s wording is intentionally vague, allowing for broad interpretations that could lead to significant changes in available literature within schools. 

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Long rows of bookshelves filled with various books in a public library, showcasing a typical library environment

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Such language could potentially result in the banning of classic literature, like “Romeo and Juliet,” from educational syllabi, as the law invites challenges due to its openness to interpretation.

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Concerns from a Local Librarian

Shanna Miles, a school librarian and author from South Carolina, voiced her concerns about the restrictive nature of the new law. 

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A young woman with long hair, wearing a casual outfit, browsing books on wooden shelves in a cozy bookstore

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She remarked, “All we’re going to have left is Lassie from here on out,” highlighting the potential for extensive censorship under the new regulations.

A Part of a Larger Trend

This new regulation in South Carolina is seen as part of a broader, national fight against books that explore themes of race, sexuality, and other potentially divisive topics. 

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Close-up view of the spines of numerous books tightly packed on a shelf, displaying a variety of colors and titles

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The law stands out due to its severity compared to similar actions in other states.

Bypassing Traditional Legislative Process

The policy was put into effect on June 25th without any debate or vote in the state senate or house, which is usually required for such legislative changes. 

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The South Carolina State Capitol building, featuring a prominent dome with an American flag flying on top under a clear blue sky

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This unusual procedural bypass has expedited the law’s implementation.

Empowering Parents to Challenge Books

The law allows parents of students in public K-12 schools to challenge the appropriateness of up to five titles per month. 

A diverse group of young children, including a boy in an orange striped shirt, engaged in educational activities at desks in a classroom

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This provision gives significant control over educational content to parents, allowing them to influence which books are available in schools.

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Lessons from Iowa's Experience

A similar law passed in Iowa in May 2023 led to a wave of book bans, including the removal of classics like “Ulysses” and “Native Son” from educational institutions. 

A worn-out, blue hardcover copy of "Ulysses" by James Joyce, showing the book's thick, weathered pages and faded cover

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This precedent illustrates the potential impact of South Carolina’s new law on literary education.

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Civil Liberties Under Threat

Jace Woodrum, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in South Carolina, criticized the law, saying, “South Carolinians are less free today than they were yesterday.” 

ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) banner at a public demonstration

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He described the legislation as a tool for ideological censorship.

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Broad Impact on Education

Shanna Miles, reflecting on the broader implications of the law, stated, “It’s not just queer kids, it’s not just kids of color, it’s impacting all kids.” 

A colorful protest sign held up against a metal fence, reading "TEACH REAL HISTORY DON'T BAN BOOKS" in multicolored letters

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Her comment illustrates the extensive reach of the new regulations on all students’ educational experiences.

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Fears of Indirect Censorship

Miles also expressed concerns about “soft censorship,” where librarians might hesitate to acquire books featuring diverse content due to fear of controversy. 

A person's hand pulling a book titled "Apollo" from a shelf filled with various books, in a dimly lit room.

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This could lead to a reduction in the availability of books that represent a wide range of experiences and perspectives.

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Guidance for Librarians Needed

With the implementation of the new book ban, librarians are left without clear guidelines on how to adapt their purchasing strategies. 

A wooden bookshelf packed with a variety of books including titles like "The Art of Living," "Famous Myths and Legends," and "Mythology"

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This uncertainty complicates their role and could potentially alter the diversity and richness of library collections.

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Future of Educational Materials in Doubt

Tayler Simon, founder of Liberation is Lit, raised concerns about the limitations on materials related to sex education and safe relationship exploration. 

A panoramic view of a large, curved library bookshelf filled with colorful books, extending into the distance under a vaulted ceiling

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This restriction could isolate students from learning about important aspects of personal development and societal interaction.

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