Book banning in schools surges, report says

April 17, 2024
PEN America, an advocate for free expression, has documented more than 4,000 instances of book banning from July to December 2023.

The number of individual books banned by schools has soared to a record level, according to a PEN America report Banned in the USA: Narrating the Crisis. 

The report documents over 4,000 instances of book banning during the first half of the 2023-24 school year – more than in the entire previous 2022-2023 school year.

The report, which examines book bans from July to December 2023, details book bans in 52 public school districts across 23 states. Bans took place in both red and blue districts.

PEN America is a nonprofit organization that works to defend free expression.

The report examines a wave of intense scrutiny over books that discuss women, sexual violence, and rape. The report also finds that books discussing race and racism, LGBTQ+ and transgender identities continue to be targeted at consistently high rates.

“Book bans are targeting narratives about race and sexual identities and sexual content writ large, and they show no sign of stopping,” said Sabrina Baêta, Freedom to Read program manager at PEN America and a lead author of the report. "The bans we’re seeing are broad, harsh, and pernicious–and they’re undermining the education of millions of students across the country.”

Florida continues to have the highest number of reported bans: 3,135 bans across 11 school districts, In other states:

  • Wisconsin experienced 481 bans across three school districts – one school system, the Elkhorn Area School District, banned 444 books following a single parents’ challenge;
  • Iowa experienced 142 bans in three school districts;
  • Texas experienced 141 bans across four school districts;
  • Kentucky and Virginia experienced at least 100 bans each; in Kentucky, Boyle County Schools alone removed 106 books; and in Virginia, bans occurred across three school districts.

At the same time that bans are increasing, formalized resistance to censorship is growing. Across the country, students are staging protests and read-ins, founding after-school banned book clubs; working with teachers to distribute books under the radar; creating funds to purchase new books for districts affected by bans; and installing free community bookshelves throughout their towns.

PEN America defines a school book ban as any action taken against a book based on its content and as a result of parent or community challenges, administrative decisions, or in response to direct or threatened action by lawmakers or other governmental officials, that leads to a previously accessible book being either removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.

Sponsored Recommendations

Providing solutions that help creativity, collaboration, and communication.

Discover why we’re a one-stop shop for all things education. See how ODP Business Solutions can help empower your students, school, and district to succeed by supporting healthier...

Building Futures: Transforming K–12 Learning Environments for Tomorrow's Leaders

Discover how ODP Business Solutions® Workspace Interiors partnered with a pioneering school system, overcoming supply chain challenges to furnish 18 new K–12 campuses across 4...

How to design flexible learning spaces that teachers love and use

Unlock the potential of flexible learning spaces with expert guidance from school districts and educational furniture providers. Discover how to seamlessly integrate adaptive ...

Blurring the Lines in Education Design: K–12 to Higher Ed to Corporate America

Discover the seamless integration of educational and corporate design principles, shaping tomorrow's leaders from kindergarten to boardroom. Explore innovative classroom layouts...