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Conservative youth organization offers students books banned by their school district

It’s not ‘censorship’ but ‘equity representation’

California’s Burbank Unified School District has banned classic literature from its curriculum at least temporarily, including “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” because they offended a few parents.

For students who can’t wait for this “pause” to end, the Young America’s Foundation is stepping in to offer the books free of charge.

The conservative youth organization tweeted the offer Monday, directing Burbank students and parents to a new “banned books” section of its website where they can request the books.

“This censorship should not go unchallenged. Students should have access to these important literary works and wrestle with the ideas they contain,” YAF says on the campaign page, titled “Academic Freedom: A Novel Idea”:

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are foundational American principles, and Young America’s Foundation rejects attempts to censor materials deemed “politically incorrect” and is committed to ensuring that middle and high school students in the Burbank Unified School District have access to books that encourage intellectual diversity and critical thinking.

YAF is also offering students the option of receiving a copy of “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative” by Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College.

The organization is encouraging people to pressure the district to reinstate the books ahead of its next board meeting.

MORE: Burbank USD bans classic literature ‘until further notice’

MyBurbank.com did unpaid PR for the district after the National Coalition Against Censorship and Los Angeles Times described the book ban as, well, a book ban.

“Some news organizations have picked up on the phrase, releasing a spate of inaccurate reports, including a misunderstanding of how teachers choose books to teach and the larger efforts of the Diversify Our Narrative campaign and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee,” reporter Lisa Paredes wrote:

“Recent news articles in the Los Angeles Times and television interviews have spouted false information,” commented Instruction subcommittee member and BUSD Library Coordinator Lisa Dyson. “WE ARE NOT BANNING BOOKS!”

“These books are on pause while we listen and learn from our BIPOC students, parents, and teachers who have experienced these classroom books for over 30 years now and have come to our District sharing their experiences and their concerns,” Dyson continued.

“So these books are on pause while we listen and learn and read what is currently out there also written by award-winning BIPOC without the trope of the white savior stories or books that are considered ‘classics’ because white gatekeepers at one time decided what would be considered classic.”

In case you missed the talking points, the books are only on “pause,” not “banned.” Dyson continued that preventing teachers from teaching the books “is not censorship” but rather “equity representation of our student populations.”

MORE: New Jersey lawmakers want ‘Huck Finn’ out of schools

Superintendent Matt Hill followed up the book “pause” by also banning any use of the n-word in classes, MyBurbank.com reported Nov. 28:

In addition, starting immediately, we are banning the use of, and reading of the n-word in all classes, regardless of context. This is not about censorship or banning books outright, this is about determining which books are mandatory and which books are optional.

Hill appears to mean that teachers are not allowed to assign books that include the n-word to the full class. If they want to teach the books to “smaller groups” of students, Paredes reported, they must take additional training.

In a Friday update to its original post, NCAC said it was “disappointed in the District’s resolution to this matter and continues to advocate for the District to adopt stronger book review policies and to follow them when books are challenged.”

It published two “perspectives” by former students in the district, Sungjoo Yoon and Chloe Bauer, explaining why the district’s ban is wrong, even if temporary.

MORE: Award-winning Los Angeles teacher ousted for reading ‘Huck Finn’ to class

IMAGE: Rachel Gonzalez/Flickr

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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