Select your state


banned books

First Amendment litigation involving book censorship in schools has usually turned on the rights of a school board to control classroom curricula by prohibiting the use of certain texts, and an inquiry into whether a certain challenged text is vulgar. Some federal courts have distinguished between objective vulgarity—which a school board may prohibit—and the subject matter of a book (witchcraft, lesbian romance) with which the school board members may personally disagree or have a distaste for—and which a school board may not prohibit.

But one federal court recently stated that book banning takes place when a government or its officials forbid or prohibit others from having a book. The term does not apply where a school district—through its authorized school board—decides not to continue possessing the book on its own library shelves. The school board is the entity that has the ultimate authority to decide what books will be purchased and kept on the shelves of the schools in the district—and the school board can decide not to purchase and shelve a book in the first place.

In Texas, First Amendment litigation related to book censorship in schools often revolves around the balance between a school board's authority to manage classroom curricula and the rights of individuals against censorship. Federal courts have generally held that school boards can restrict the use of texts they find objectively vulgar, but they cannot prohibit books based on subjective disagreement with the content, such as themes of witchcraft or LGBTQ+ relationships. However, a recent federal court ruling clarified that the term 'book banning' specifically refers to the act of forbidding possession of a book. It does not apply when a school board, through its legitimate powers, chooses not to purchase or retain a book in the school's library. The school board has the discretion to determine the selection of books available in the district's schools, which includes the decision not to acquire or keep certain books on library shelves.

Legal articles related to this topic