The Wentzville school board voted on Friday to reinstate “The Bluest Eye,” with only one vote against the decision. The book tells the story of an impoverished and abused Black girl who is fixated on White standards of beauty and longs for blue eyes. Board members had voted 4-3 in January to remove it from school library shelves and restrict digital access.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU), who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students, argued the board has restricted several books that engage students with a “diversity of ideas and minority viewpoints, including with respect to race, gender, and sexual identity,” adding board members ban books because of “ideological disagreement.”
Daniel Brice, the school board’s vice president, said Friday that parents will still be able to prohibit their children from accessing “The Bluest Eye” if they wish. “I think we’ve brought enough attention to this book that the parents are aware that this book is going to be in the library,” said Brice, who had originally voted to remove the novel.
School board director Sandy Garber was the lone remaining vote against the book, insisting it was inappropriate for students and “doesn’t offer anything to our children.”
Books written for children and young adults have come into the focus of school boards across the US, but experts have warned against the practice of banning them as it can affect child development in relation to real-world challenges. A Tennessee school board removed the graphic novel ‘Maus,’ which is about the Holocaust, from curriculum last month due to language and nudity concerns. A Pennsylvania school board last year reversed its decision to ban anti-racism books and resources after students protested.
While Friday’s reversal was “welcome news,” other books “are still banned,” said Anthony Rothert, director of Integrated Advocacy of ACLU of Missouri.
“Wentzville’s policies still make it easy for any community member to force any book from the shelves even when they shamelessly target books by and about communities of color, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups,” Rothert said in a statement.
A school board motion had previously argued Morrison’s book contained graphic content such as pedophilia, incest and rape, according to the ACLU lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the other books removed from Wentzvile school libraries are: “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback,” by Alison Bechdel; “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson; “Heavy: An American Memoir,” by Kiese Laymon; “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison; “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces,” by Isabel Quintero; “Modern Romance,” by Aziz Ansari; and “Invisible Girl,” by Lisa Jewell.
They were not discussed by the board at Friday’s meeting.