In celebration of Pride Month, the White House has announced a set of actions designed to protect LGBTQIA+ communities, including the appointment of a new coordinator within the Department of Education to spearhead a response to the rising number of book bans at the state level.
While details are still to come, White House officials say the new coordinator position will be situated within the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and will “work to provide new trainings for schools nationwide on how book bans that target specific communities and create a hostile school environment may violate federal civil rights laws.”
The announcement comes just two weeks after the DOE announced a landmark resolution agreement with the Forsyth County (Georgia) School district over its removal of library books largely featuring Black and LGBTQ characters.
“Across the country, our nation faces a spike in book bans—efforts that disproportionately strip books about LGBTQIA+ communities, communities of color, and other communities off of library and classroom shelves,” a White House statement reads. “Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQIA+ people and other communities face.”
In a statement, the American Library Association applauded the move.
“We are heartened by the Biden-Harris Administration’s leadership to address the alarming rise in book bans and other attacks on LGBTQIA+ Americans that aim to stigmatize and erase the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community," ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada said. "Everyone deserves the opportunity to see themselves and their family reflected in the books in their library’s collection. Those books are a safe place, with stories that validate their experience and where they find acceptance, hope and can see a future."
The move comes in response to an ongoing, politically motivated wave of book bans and attacks on the freedom to read nationwide.
In March, ALA reported a stunning 1,269 "demands to censor library books and resources" in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago, and nearly double the record-shattering 729 challenges recorded in 2021. The vast majority of works challenged, ALA officials note, were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.