Free Speech Under Attack: Book Bans and Academic Censorship

Meeting Notes: 
The hearing will convene in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building and over Zoom, which has been approved by the House.
Date: 
Thursday, April 7, 2022 - 10:00am
Location: 
2154 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Jamie Raskin's Opening Statement [PDF]

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hearing to examine the ongoing efforts across the country to ban books from schools and public libraries.

 

Book challenges and bans are rising at unprecedented rates, with ideologically motivated organizations and legislators in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, and other states leading campaigns to remove books from schools and public libraries.  In 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) recorded 729 challenges to remove nearly 1,600 books from school and public libraries—the highest number of attempted book bans in the 20 years that the ALA has tracked this data.  Meanwhile, some school administrators are preemptively removing library books out of fear.

Books being challenged or banned include those that discuss racial equity, have minorities as protagonists, address LGBTQ+ issues, or have Black or LGBTQ+ authors.  Many of these texts help children and young adults to recognize differences and respect the humanity of others rather than to stigmatize and shun people who are different than themselves.  However, some right-wing groups and media outlets have
pushed false narratives to justify educational censorship aimed at controlling and chilling free speech.  These groups assert they are only challenging books that are “divisive” or “indoctrinate” students, but in reality are trying to ban books like Ruby Bridges Goes to School, Beloved, Families, Families, Families!, and Maus.

 

Studies have shown that not only do students benefit from learning experiences that utilize and highlight diversity, but that removing books about LGBTQ+ experiences from schools further stigmatizes and isolates LGBTQ+ students who are already more likely to suffer depression and consider suicide.  These bans are unpopular among most Americans, and three out of every four public-school parents believe that books should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis.

 

The current efforts to ban books are part of a broader attack on free speech in the classroom that amounts to educational censorship.  Combatting these efforts is paramount to protecting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers, and preserving free speech in America.

WITNESSES

Panel I

Ms. Christina Ellis

High School Student

York County, Pennsylvania

 

Ms. Shreya Mehta

High School Student

Richland, Washington

Ms. Olivia Pituch
High School Student
York County, Pennsylvania

 

Panel II

Ms. Ruby Bridges
Civil Rights Activist, Author

Ms. Samantha Hull
Librarian
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Ms. Jessica Berg
Teacher
Loudon County, Virginia

Ms. Mindy Freeman
Parent
Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Dr. Jonathan W. Pidluzny (minority witness)
Vice President of Academic Affairs

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

 

Additional witnesses to be announced

117th Congress