News (USA)

School board orders librarians to use Moms for Liberty’s book censorship list to evaluate books

library, censorship, book banning
Photo: Shutterstock

A Virginia school board has ordered school librarians to use a book rating resource associated with right-wing anti-LGBTQ+ group Moms for Liberty to rate and remove materials in school libraries. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Moms for Liberty as an extremist antigovernment organization.

At an August 8 meeting, the Hanover County School Board in Hanover County, Virginia approved the use of BookLooks to vet books that are already on school library shelves, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Launched in 2022, BookLooks officially claims that it is not affiliated with Moms for Liberty, which has been at the forefront of the so-called “parental rights in education” movement as well as efforts to ban books featuring themes related to the LGBTQ+ community and racism.

But as BookRiot noted last year, the site’s LLC filings indicate that it is “spearheaded” by Moms for Liberty member Emily Maikisch. According to its website, BookLooks’ mission is to “Write and collect detailed and easy to understand book content reviews centered around objectionable content, including profanity, nudity, and sexual content. Our goal is to make these reviews available to all parents so they can make informed decisions.”

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, it is common practice for librarians to use professional selection resources to review books’ content, eliminating the need for librarians to read every page of every book when determining what to include in library collections. But library experts like Margaret Baker of the Virginia Association of School Librarians say that BookLooks “is not a professionally recognized source for considering the purchase of school library books.”

“Librarians are trained professionals who strive to offer a library collection that reflects the educational objectives and needs of their school population,” Baker said.

Kasey Meehan, director of the Freedom to Read project at PEN America, said that resources like BookLooks “are overwhelmingly used by individuals that are looking to challenge and get books removed.”

“Often what we see happening is content being taken out of context, being evaluated as a part, versus following best practices, which is to review the work as a whole,” Meehan said. “There is this mislabeling happening where sexual content is being categorized as pornographic, as obscene.”

At the August 8 Hanover County School Board meeting, chair Bob May said that BookLooks would be used to evaluate a book’s content if it is challenged, while more widely recognized professional resources would continue to be used in the acquisition of new materials.

The Hanover County School Board currently has a list of 100 books that are up for review. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, about a quarter of those books contain LGBTQ+-related themes. In a statement, local progressive grass-roots group Hanover Forward claimed that the list originated with Moms for Liberty, though HCPS spokesperson Chris Whitley wrote in an email that “the list was shared with the school board by a citizen.”

Training documents given to educators last week included a page defining terms related to “sexually explicit content.” The document cited an outdated definition of “sexual content” as defined by the state, which included the word “homosexuality.” Virginia lawmakers removed “homosexuality” from the state’s definition of “sexual content” under its broader definition of “sexually explicit content” earlier this month. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the training documents have since been updated to omit “homosexuality.”

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Matt Gaetz says school prayer bill will create “more empathy” as he cruelly mocks LGBTQ+ people

Previous article

It Gets Better Project leaves Twitter/X because it is too unsafe for LGBTQ+ youth

Next article