By Gretchen Garrity
Board of Education v. Pico (1982) is a United States Supreme Court decision that has been used to justify providing access to sexually explicit/pornographic materials to children in libraries.
The Court cited a lack of established process the Island Trees Union Free School District used in making their decision to remove objectionable books from their school library. The case revolved around a number of books that the school board described as “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Sem[i]tic, and just plain filthy.”
In their decision, the Court stated: “This would be a very different case if the record demonstrated that petitioners had employed established, regular, and facially unbiased procedures for the review of controversial materials. But the actual record in the case before us suggests the exact opposite.”
The Court also stated:
“The record shows that immediately after petitioners first ordered the books removed from the library shelves, the Superintendent of Schools reminded them that “we already have a policy . . . designed expressly [457 U.S. 853, 875] to handle such problems,” and recommended that the removal decision be approached through this established channel.” [Bolding added.]
In part, the Court ruled against the school board because of their end-run around the procedures within their school district. Therefore, when dealing with schools or public libraries that are pushing sexually explicit materials on minors, it is vital to follow established rules when challenging books.
The devil is in the details, as they say. Following a public library’s or school library’s procedures may be a needed step to ultimately protect children from pornographic and obscene materials. Generally this means filling out a challenge and/or reconsideration form (the link is to the Christian County Library form) and submitting it as a part of the process. Because many libraries are following guidelines that come from a national organization–nearly always the American Library Association (ALA)–it is almost inevitable that a challenged book will remain in the library no matter the content or accessibility.
However, it is important to continue with the established rules, and that may mean taking the challenge to the library’s board of trustees for reconsideration. Citizens should be able to access their library’s policy manual online, (link is to the Christian County Library’s policy manual) or be able to see a copy at the library. It is here that citizens are able to see the policies that determine what books are added to the library’s collections, and how the library determines where books are located in the library (their own ratings system).
The policy manual may also contain the challenge form and will outline the exact procedure for challenging a book.
“The board should offer an open, concerned image without accommodating censorship demands. [Bolding added] Have a simple procedure for the board to use when dealing with material challenges. The library director should be the first person that meets with the patron and receives the complaint. If the matter is not satisfactorily addressed by the director, then the library board is next in line to receive the complaint.”
Clearly, the emphasis is not to accommodate book challenges. Generally, that is a good thing. However, when dealing with obscene, sexually explicit materials that are geared toward minors, this is highly problematic.
Also, what the ALA and your local library means by “censorship” or “book banning” is not in line with common usage. Currently, the political atmosphere at many public libraries is to provide minors not only access to pornographic materials, but to provide them through a twisted application of the First Amendment.
The argument is that by restricting children’s access to these materials, all library patrons are thereby harmed through “censorship” and “book banning.” Additionally, political activists argue that sexually explicit books have literary value and are not pornographic. Organizations like the ALA have many resources to aid libraries in fending off book challenges, as well as to promote ideologies such as the LGBTQAI+ that target children as young as toddlers. Here are a few:
Public Libraries Online: Challenged Materials Policy (from the ALA)
It isn’t difficult to notice that the ALA spearheads the vast majority of political activism that has infected state and local libraries, including those in Missouri. If your library and its staff are members, individually or collectively, of the ALA, then you can be fairly certain that its policies are in lockstep with an organization whose incoming president is a Marxist, and whose politics informs the direction of this non-governmental entity. More on the ALA later.
On the legislative front, Missouri State Sen. Rick Brattin sponsored SB775, which makes it a crime to give children access to pornographic and/or sexually explicit materials. Public schools are also barred from providing minor students access to such materials. Additionally, a bill may be introduced in 2024 to make library board of trustees an elected position. If passed, it will go a long way toward returning local control of their libraries to taxpaying citizens.
In the meantime, it is worthwhile to put libraries on notice that providing inappropriate materials to minors is not acceptable. Challenging pornographic books in your local library’s children’s section will begin the process of rooting out materials that could harm the innocence of children, and will put a stop to an indoctrination agenda that seeks to capture them at ever younger ages.
Following the established rules to contest objectionable materials is an important step in being ultimately successful. It may someday show a court of law that citizens acted in a deliberate, thoughtful, and rules-based way to seek remedy for the moral crime of giving our most vulnerable citizens access to pornography.
Become familiar with your library’s policy manual. Download and print out copies of your library’s book challenge form. Share with like-minded folks and challenge a book or two. Go here for a review of many objectionable library books. Make sure you are familiar with the book(s) and can describe exactly why children should not be able to access it. If needed, request a reconsideration at the library board of trustees level. Take notes!