More than 35 Books Pulled from Canby High Library for Reconsideration

Canby school officials have recently pulled around 40 books from middle and high school library shelves at the request of community members, in accordance with district policy that will allow a committee to review the titles in the coming weeks and decide whether they will remain accessible to local students.

Several community members attended the Canby School Board’s March 13 meeting to speak in support of the materials being reconsidered, while a group of current Canby High School students have planned a demonstration protesting the district’s actions this week.

Many of the titles frequently appear on lists of the most banned books in school libraries across the country, with common complaints being their discussions or depictions of drug use, sexual activity, violence and abuse.

Many of them are also about or written by Black, Latino, LGBTQ or other similarly underrepresented authors. All but six of the authors on the list are women.

The list includes popular and award-winning — but also frequently banned — titles such as The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez, Crank, Impulse and Perfect by Ellen Hopkins, and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.

A list of titles Canby librarians pulled from middle and high school library shelves in recent weeks due to community members filing requests for the materials to be reconsidered, in accordance with district policy.

A complete list of the titles is below.

In the meeting earlier this month, two board members broadly defended and applauded the action by district officials.

Director Dawn Depner said the question is not whether “students are responsible enough to choose their books. It’s about the law, and it’s about the safety of minors.”

“Educators aren’t allowed to give prescriptions or Tylenol or ibuprofen to students, so why should we be able to distribute or make books accessible that are sexually explicit and may include pornography in our libraries?” she asked.

Depner said she appreciates the initiative of parents, teachers and administrators who are taking the time to review the books in question.

“There’s no ban on these books,” she said. “They are up for review. In my opinion, this should not be a district decision, but rather a parent’s decision to allow these books to be provided, and maybe have these books provided at home. I have no problem with that.”

Director Sherry Smith also spoke in favor of the books being reviewed.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to spend our district moneys wisely, whether it be grant money or other sources,” she said. “And, for that reason, I don’t support the purchase or distribution of pornography, nor the hyper-sexualization of our children.”

In any business, rather than a school, Smith said, “it would be a crime for this material to be displayed or distributed to minors because it depicts sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.”

“So I cannot, in good conscience, support the district or library aiding or abetting the distribution of that kind of material,” she concluded. “The district has no control over who sees these materials, especially when removed from district property, and I’m not willing to risk that kind of viability on behalf of our district.”

Several community members also attended the March 13 meeting and said they supported the titles being pulled and reviewed.

“I am appalled at some of the offerings that are available to children under the guise of freedom of speech,” said local resident Sharlene Sanders. “Our job as adults is to protect, to nurture, to love, to educate and to discipline our kids.

“We should not hand over our responsibility to raise our kids, but we partner with teachers and administrators. Parents have the right to speak into what is being taught to their own children, especially when it comes to important topics like sex, sexual acts, sexual violence, suicide and drugs.”

Sandra Carrigg praised the board for “doing what is right for the parents and children of Canby.”

“I pray that you will be granted discernment to see and know what is being subtly infused into curricula, material that is being purposefully designed to indoctrinate children into various social, political and even perverse sexual agendas,” she said. “We will all be held accountable for the decisions that we make and the choices that impact children.

“I am sure you’re aware of the verse where Jesus warns of offenses committed against children. He says it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Thank you for that. You’ve chosen the right path by removing library books.”

Also testifying earlier this month was Marissa Depner, a Canby High School graduate and adoptive daughter of Canby School Board member Dawn Depner.

She disclosed that she is a victim of physical and sexual abuse and how titles like Milk and Honey, a poetry collection by Rupi Kaur, and the graphic novel memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe were triggering for her.

“Please understand that when I pick up a book like [Milk and Honey], … I begin to shut down,” she said. “This means I freeze. I start to cry, and I have flashbacks of my abuse. Then I move into a full-blown panic attack and anxiety attack.

“I’m completely embarrassed and have to call one of my parents to come and pick me up or calm me down. Adults may be able to read this and be OK, because they’ve had years of years of help and healing, but for younger students like myself, we’re not able to process this, and it’s a trigger.”

Depner has also been accused of superseding the review process last year, when she was a student, by checking out a copy of Gender Queer owned by Canby High School and never returning it.

“I want to make it very clear that I checked out a book from the library last year, Gender Queer, and there were rumors going around that me and my mother and other students had done a book banning,” she said.

“That is not true. I have the book still with the Canby High School stickers on it, and I’m more than willing to bring it to the next meeting.”

Reached last week, Canby School District Director of Communications Kristen Wohlers made clear that the books were not “removed” from high school and middle school libraries, but temporarily pulled pending reconsideration. She did not disclose who requested that the materials be reconsidered.

“All I know is that it was community members who filed the requests,” she told the Current. “The reasons varied but fell within the policy requirements. Now, the 40 books are in the reconsideration process, which involves a committee.”

The district does not have a policy that is specific to reconsidering library books, so these reviews instead fall under the procedure allowing families or community members to express concerns about classroom curricula or any materials used by the district.

The policy does not require the materials to be removed from school use while they are under review — and, in fact, allows that they may still be used in classrooms with the permission of the superintendent or principal — but Wohlers said the general practice has been to pull the books.

“The procedure does leave room for ‘discretion,’ and specifically regarding our library process, materials are pulled for reconsideration when a request is made,” she said.

Based on the number of titles that have been requested for reconsideration, Wohlers estimated the review will not happen until this summer.

The titles include A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruin, A Court of Silver Flames and Empire of Storms by Sara J. Maas; Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson; The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison; Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin, Breathless by Jennifer Niven, and Crank, Impulse and Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.

Also on the list are Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Fade by Lisa McMann, Heartstopper Vol. I and II by Alice Oseman, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Looking for Alaska by John Green and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

Other titles are Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (and a graphic novel collaboration with Renee Nault).

The final books that have been requested for reconsideration are The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

A new Instagram account, @donottakemybookschs, has been established to protest the district’s actions, and a demonstration outside Canby High School is planned for Wednesday, March 22.

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