Book bans continue to proliferate during the 2022-23 school year, according to a report released Thursday by PEN America, which tracks the issue. There have been 1,477 instances of individual books banned during the first half of this school year, up from 1,149 book bans recorded in spring 2022.
While bans during the 2021-22 school year were driven by parent-led groups, this year’s bans also reflect school districts' responses to state legislation. States where book bans are most prevalent — as a result of both state and local forces — include Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.
Stories about people of color and the LGBTQ community continue to be the most prevalent content targeted by book bans. However, bans this school year spread to literature containing other topics and themes, such as violence and abuse, health and wellbeing, and death and grief.
Curriculum regulations, including book bans, continue to spread in the 2022-23 school year, especially among conservative states. Over the past few years, these restrictions have spread through state, board and district policies and have impacted how teachers discuss topics related to race and LGBTQ issues in the classroom.
These issues have been front-and-center for many high-profile Republican politicians, especially during campaign and voting seasons.
On Wednesday, for example, the Florida Board of Education approved Gov. Ron DeSantis' request to expand restrictions on sexual orientation and gender identity instruction to all grade levels. The state already prohibited instruction on those topics for students in grades K-3, which a former Florida lawmaker behind the measure originally said was "designed to keep school districts from talking about these topics before kids are ready to process them."
"With this decision, the DeSantis administration and the Board of Education are continuing a frontal attack on students and public education in Florida, but they’re also giving the lie to the argument that this was ever about protecting the youngest children," said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, which is also a free speech group. Friedman said the expanded measure "is certain to worsen the situation and instill more fear among teachers, librarians, and school administrators."
The tide of book bans and curriculum restrictions have also caught the attention of the Biden administration, which has denounced the nationwide measures.
Still, states continue to propose expanding measures to higher grades in K-12, as well as to higher education institutions.