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Pride event canceled because they were going to give away banned books

Chicago, IL, USA - May 10 2023: A stack of books found on frequently banned book lists wrapped in caution tape
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Dallas suburb Princeton just had its Pride event canceled because of a school district’s book ban policy, Dallas Voice reports.

The Pride event, organized by Princeton TX Diverse, was scheduled to take place at Princeton High School as it had last year. However, the district canceled the event. They cited a lack of disclaimer about what pride is on a Facebook post and that the event was going to give away books the district has banned.

The district has not provided a list of what books were banned to the organizers of Princeton’s Pride event. Representatives claim, after an information request by an organizer, that this list does not exist.

“We founded PTX Diverse to support our LGBTQIA+ friends and family in and around Princeton. We’ve tried to create safe spaces where the community can come together without fear or retaliation,” said John Kusterbeck, Princeton TX Diverse co-founder, in a statement.

“But the school district keeps targeting us and trying to drive us into the shadows. Through this complaint, we’re asking that they treat us the same as other groups and reverse these wrongful decisions.”

The event was expected to receive hundreds of attendees.

The ACLU of Texas filed a formal complaint against the school district, alleging discrimination and free speech violations.

The complaint says that the banned books were intended to be given away in a coloring contest, with each of the books awarded based on the age group of the participants.

Among the books are Looking for Alaska by John Green, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss.

An additional banned book that was going to be given away was And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, a true story about two male penguins who raised a baby penguin chick together.

“Board policy,” Princeton ISD superintendent Donald McIntyre said, “clearly states that any and all communications with the public by the lessee shall clearly state the event is not sponsored by the district as well as identify the nature of the activity and sponsoring organization.” 

“Therefore, based on this information and the terms of the agreement that specifically provided that ‘violation(s) of rules and regulations for use of district facilities may result in permanent cancellation of the non-school user’s use of district facilities,’ you and Princeton TX Diverse are no longer able to rent and utilize district facilities,”

The ACLU complaint also suggests that certain board members have been hostile to Princeton TX Diverse.

“Most observers of PTX Diverse’s Facebook page know the history of Pride in Princeton and the hostility that the group has faced, even from certain board members.”

“And just as those board members have a right to free speech and to express their views, so too does PTX Diverse have a right to express its views free from governmental retaliation and discrimination.”

Additionally, there have been several instances of Christian groups failing to provide a disclaimer on their social media activities or on signs advertising events associated with these schools.

“For example, the Heart+Soul Church hosts worship services at Princeton High School and has often failed to include the required disclaimer in its social media post about these events, even when prominently advertising that its services take place on district property,” said the ACLU.

Their given address for worship lists the school as a place of worship with no disclaimer.

Faith Baptist Church held explicitly religious events focused on prayer at Lovelady High School but did not give a disclaimer. Additionally, they appear to have violated the district’s policy on charging for admission to their events by putting up prices ranging from $25 to $800.

Holy Ghost Ministry has its services at Southard Middle School, advertising them on a sign. There was no disclaimer.

The ACLU emphasizes that it just wants pride organizers to be given equal treatment to everyone else.

Book bans have been taking place across the country, with many of them targeting LGBTQ+ authors and content about racism. Some states have implemented policies restricting ideological book bans and requiring school districts and libraries to follow a procedure to protect First Amendment interests when evaluating challenged books. Minnesota is the latest such state.

Charlise Lee, PTX Diverse co-founder, said in a statement, “PTX Diverse provides LGBTQIA+ students, families, and allies a place to be themselves free from discrimination. By trying to silence us and suppress our speech, Princeton ISD is harming our entire community.”

“While banning our group, they’ve also made campus rentals more expensive for everyone — making it more difficult for all of us to hold community events. We ask the school board to stop discriminating against us and stop inflicting pain on our entire community.”

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