Books allegedly tossed in the trash at NYC school sparks investigation

Written by on March 19, 2024 Images

(NEW YORK) — The New York City Department of Education is investigating claims that hundreds of new books — many that were about people of color and LGBTQ identities — were thrown in the trash at a Staten Island school after the NYC news outlet The Gothamist first reported the discovery.

The outlet reported that several of the discarded books, found at PS 55 The Henry M. Boehm School, had notes written on them potentially citing reasons for their removal.

For example, a book about Native American history called We Are Still Here had a note that read “negative slant on white people,” while a note on the immigration story My Two Border Towns, read “our country has no room and it’s not fair,” according to The Gothamist. The outlet stated that another book thrown out was about singer and activist Nina Simone, which had a note that read: “This is about how Black people were treated poorly but overcame it. (Can go both ways).” ABC News could not independently verify this information.

In a statement to ABC News, the department stated it is conducting an investigation “to understand what happened in this situation.”

“Our public schools do not shy away from books that teach students about the diverse people and communities that make up the fabric of our society,” a Department of Education spokesperson said. “We do not condone the messages found on these books.”

According to a department spokesperson, PS 55 school leadership has said it will ensure that policies and procedures will be followed in the future related to discarded books or other material.

Libraries and schools across the country are facing a growing battle over book-banning efforts, according to recently released data from the American Library Association. About 47% of the titles targeted last year were by or about people of color or the LGBTQ community, the data showed.

The ALA recorded a record-breaking total of 4,240 unique book titles targeted for removal or restriction in schools and libraries in 2023, topping the previous record of 2,571 unique titles in 2022.

Many of the efforts to target books came from politicized groups or individuals demanding the censorship of multiple titles — often dozens or hundreds at a time — which drove the surge in book challenges, the ALA said.

“Should a parent feel concerned about the literature in their child’s classroom, they are encouraged to reach out to the teacher, principal, or superintendent,” said the department. “If a parent chooses to move forward with challenging a book, a Materials Evaluation Committee is formed to review and evaluate the book.”

PS 55 school officials have not yet responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

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