(New York)— The Marietta City, GA. school district vote last week to review its entire catalog of books for “sexually explicit” content is an “outrageous policy decision that is sure to lead to censorship,” PEN America said today.

Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, said: “This outrageous policy decision is sure to lead to censorship. Schools and school libraries must serve the information-needs and exploratory pursuits for all students. Reviewing thousands of books for “sexual” material threatens that goal, particularly if excerpts are reviewed without appropriate context of a work as a whole. Such a broad directive can produce anxiety and uncertainty among those who have to enforce it, and is exceptionally burdensome on administrators, educators, and librarians.

We have seen how dictates with similarly subjective directives have been used to implicate wide swaths of books with literary value, leading to disproportionate removals of books with LGBTQ+ characters, books with characters of color, as well as books that discuss sexual assault, sexual wellbeing, and consent. As a free expression organization, we implore superintendents to start defending the right to read for all students.”

Under the policy, any book found to be “sexually explicit” will be removed, and parents will be able to appeal the decision to remove a particular book. The school board also called for a regular review of new materials, both in the library and in the classroom, as well as a semi-annual progress report on the policy’s implementation The decision comes after a nearby county removed “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andres and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, citing what they call “highly inappropriate” content.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057