New Missouri Law Aims to Ban Your Books

A look at how far modern day censorship will go


The graphic novel section of Lindbergh Highschool’s Library – Photo Credit to Sam Elliott

In this modern day and age, it isn’t abnormal for younger audiences to be reading more mature content. As kids, the most recent generations grew up reading books like
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Hunger Games and Maze Runner; which all have plenty of depictions of death, suicide and overall violent or explicit material. Now, in 2022, it seems Missouri feels the need to put a ban on ‘sexually explicit content.’

The ban orginates from the Senate Bill 775, which was signed by Missouri Governor Mike Parson and enacted in late August. Bill 775, the Sexual Assult Survivors’ Bill of Rights, prohibits any educator (public or private) from providing “explicit sexual material” to students. This includes, “any pictorial, three dimensional, or visual depiction, including any photography, film, or video, picture or computer-generated image that contains ‘sexually explicit materials.’” This means that any challenged book deemed eligible to be banned can be taken off the shelves in school libraries. 

“This is my sixth year and this is the first time I’ve experienced anything like this,” Ms. Anna Whitehead, a librarian at Lindbergh High School said.

Lindbergh High School has already removed books from its shelves. 1984 (graphic novel), American Gods 1: Shadows, American Gods 2: My Ainsel, Annie Leibovitz at Work, Crime and Punishment (graphic novel), Gender Danger: Survivors of Rape, Human Trafficking, and Honor Killings, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Himawari House, Milk and Honey, The Daughters of Ys, The Handmaid’s Tale (graphic novel), The Human Body in Action, The Sun and Her Flowers and Women. One of the many books that were banned was Gender Danger: Survivors of Rape, Human Trafficking, and Honor Killings, a book purely meant to inform and educate people of what is happening around the world. The influence of the bill is targeting graphic novels.

“It impacts books that have illustrations,” said Whitehead. “a little over 600 graphic novels in selection in a collection that’s about 15,000, which is about 4%. So a relatively small percentage of the collection is illustrated text.”

While the law impacts the accessibility of usable content in the classroom, it does make some exemptions. 

“The law does make exceptions for specific things,” said Ms. Whitehead. “For instance, art is exempted, a book of Renaissance paintings that would not apply anthropological significance is also exempted, National Geographic; where they have photos from different groups of people around the world, or books about Native American tribes or things like that would be for educational purpose those are exempted, biology textbooks for instance would be also be exempted,” added on Ms. Chelsea Pulley, another librarian. 

Not only does this bill impact the library, but it also impacts the English department. 

“[The librarians] were focusing specifically on the books because that’s what we provide to students, but movie adaptations (like Romeo and Juliet) that don’t impact the library directly necessarily still affect the English Department, a larger impact of the bill,” said Pulley.

Counselors here at LHS have shown discontentment with the restriction of books and express that information about situations and topics should not be restricted. 

“Banning/restricting books because it makes others uncomfortable does not make the information/situations within them go away. If we stop talking about sensitive topics like racism, sexual assault, genocide, and many other complex issues they are not going to go away, they will still exist. We have to face the discomfort to keep it from happening again.” said Tricia Hays, an LHS counselor

I am not a fan of banning books in any manner and I do think some books that are pretty explicit should be available in the library, but not necessarily a required part of the curriculum,” said Mr. Benjamin Smith, another LHS counselor.

Not only has this impacted students’ access to literature, but it has left the librarians with the stress of pulling each individual book from the shelves. 

“We’re all checking once, checking twice just to make sure that we’re complying while still looking out for our students and making sure we’ve got all the materials they need. It’s just an added layer of extra work that goes into it to make sure that we’re not violating anything,” said Pulley.

Even though the extra work is proving to be a time restraint, the librarians are making sure that the students are still their first priority.

“Because SB775 is a legal issue and there are legal repercussions, that is taken into account,” said Pulley. “But we want students to have a library that is representative of them and their interests and we’re doing our best to provide those resources for them.”