NJEA officers: Book bans hurt students

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NJEA leaders, President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty, and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson, issued this statement against attempts across New Jersey and the United States to ban the books of school libraries and classrooms. Their statement also supports the right of students and families to have access to the information and perspectives necessary for a thorough and comprehensive education:

“We are deeply concerned by the growing number of efforts to ban a wide range of books from school libraries and classrooms. Such efforts are nothing less than a direct attack on our core values ​​as a democracy, including freedom of speech, the importance of honest public discourse, and the inherent worth and equality of all, regardless of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Our students deserve public schools that are bastions of truth, where they can be exposed to the diversity of people and experiences that make up our multicultural society. They deserve schools where they can learn the full story of our history and our present so they can be full players in building a better and fairer future.

“Banning books from school libraries is a form of lying to our children by preventing them from learning about the reality of certain experiences and events. Preventing them from experiencing the truth of history and human experience hinders their education, limits their understanding, and teaches them to think of truth as something to be feared rather than embraced and faced.

“We are encouraged that some school boards in New Jersey are standing up for children by resisting calls to ban books. The North Hunterdon Voorhees School Board recently rejected a bid to ban Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay and affirmatively declare that certain other frequently challenged books would remain accessible to NHV pupils. This is an important victory for these students and for this community. No board member, parent or community member should be able to censor what someone else’s child is allowed to read.

“But for every story of a school board standing up for students, the First Amendment, and intellectual freedom, there are far too many stories of boards being bullied into banning books or even eagerly doing so.

“History never celebrates individuals who ban books or corporations that attempt to stifle freedom and access to information. We are in perilous times in America. We must choose what kind of society we want to be and what kind of example we want to set for our students. We call on all Americans who value freedom, democracy, and truth to oppose these efforts to prevent our children from have access to important books.

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