Thursday, 14 September 2023

School board removes half of all books, including anything deemed 'racist,' 'oppressive,' or published before 2009

 The Peel District School Board defended a practice that removed a large number of books from its school libraries if they contained "racist content," "stereotypes," or didn't "affirm students' identities." Books such as "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games" were reportedly removed.

The purging process also included removing any books deemed to be outdated, which would be if they were not published in the last 15 years (after 2008).

The school board in Ontario, Canada, has thrown away thousands of books, according to the CBC, with many even being thrown in the garbage.

An internal document from the Peel District School Board directed staff to engage in work to "affirm identities," further stating that the use of "anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and anti-colonial texts is crucial" in teaching children.

The district used a process called "equitable weeding," the act of removing books that the school board deemed offensive, which claimed to limit "the harm caused by outdated and oppressive resources that remain in circulation." 

The first step in the "equitable curation cycle" included removing damaged, outdated, and uncirculated resources, before moving on to an "Anti-racist and Inclusive Audit."

This step was to ensure texts or images don't "perpetuate or reinforce racist content, stereotypes or promote deficit-thinking." 

The third step involved ensuring that resources "intentionally affirm students' identities," such as "Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQ+, Muslim, Latinx, Jewish, and South Asian identities."

The school board issued statements in defense of their curation: "Books published prior to 2008 that are damaged, inaccurate, or do not have strong circulation data (are not being checked out by students) are removed," the board said.

"The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society."

The board also claimed older titles can stay in the collection if they are "accurate, serve the curriculum, align with board initiatives and are responsive to student interest and engagement."

Following widespread news coverage, Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he wrote a letter to the school board to immediately cease the practice.

"Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities," Lecce said. "It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada's history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics."

Reina Takata, a grade 10 student at Erindale Secondary School, took issue with her school removing "more than half" of the books in the library, with some sections being "completely erased."

"Taking away books without anyone's knowledge is considered censorship," she said after a providing a photo that showed entire "sections had been completely erased."

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