Berkeley Co. Schools denies existence of banned book list

Leslie Bracken of Berkeley County started a petition in favor of Berkeley County School District releasing a list of books up for question.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2023 at 10:27 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Groups of people across the United States are pushing to ban books from library shelves and classrooms and some people in Berkeley County School District are worried some books might be next.

Leslie Bracken of Berkeley County started a petition in favor of Berkeley County School District releasing a list of books up for question. The petition has over 600 signatures, so far.

“They don’t want their kids to be stifled and set into strict parameters of what can be read,” Bracken said. “They want their kids to be able to read whatever they want to read.”

Paul Bowers, the communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the district asking for the forms of all instructional materials up for question in schools.

He says the union is already seeing a pattern in other districts.

“We’re going to see similar books being challenged,” Bowers said. “Especially if they’re by LGBTQ authors or if they deal with issues of systemic racism. We want to see if that’s the case again here.”

Minutes after the interview, Bowers received part of his FOIA request back with a list of 93 books that are listed for “objections center on graphic sexual content and profanity.”

When asking the district about this list, district spokesperson Katie Tanner sent this response:

I am unsure who shared information alleging the existence of a list of banned books, but that list does not exist. BCSD policy KNBA outlines the process for a parent/legal guardian (hereafter referred to as parent) to request the reconsideration of instructional materials. This policy is not new and is not unique to Berkeley County. Per the policy, parents/guardians are not required to make a formal request, and instead retain the right to ask that particular instructional materials not be made available to his/her child.

You can find the policy here.

The misinformation concerning ‘a list of banned books’ seems to be centered primarily on requests from speakers during citizen comment at Board meetings requesting a list of books that parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have recently requested to be reviewed in accordance with the policy. No reviews have been conducted yet, and no books have been removed as a result of this process at this time.

Both Bracken and Bowers were asked if they feel like Berkeley County School District is being transparent.

“Not as far as this is concerned, no,” Bracken said.

Bowers says he has not seen any obstruction on their part, so far.

“I think they’re doing their best,” Bowers said. “...We’re hoping to get a fuller picture and to participate in the process as we get these books restored to classrooms if they’re ever taken out.”

Bowers recommends for those who are passionate about protecting the right to read to join Freedom to Read South Carolina for ways to fight for change.

Read below for the full list of challenged books from the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act request.

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight - Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Silver Flames - Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin - Sarah J. Maas
  • Beyond Magenta - Susan Kuklin
  • Damsel - Elana Arnold
  • Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas
  • Monday’s not coming - Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Ramona Blue - Julie Murphy
  • This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas
  • Burned - Ellen Hopkins
  • Home Body - Rupi Kaur
  • House of Earth and Blood - Sarah J. Maas
  • House of Sky and Breath - Sarah J. Maas
  • Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur
  • More Happy Than Not - Adam Silvera
  • The Art of Racing In The Rain - Garth Stein
  • The Sun and her Flowers - Rupi Kaur
  • The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu
  • A Lesson in Vengeance - Victoria Lee
  • Crank - Ellen Hopkins
  • Fallout - Ellen Hopkins
  • Glass - Ellen Hopkins
  • Identical - Ellen Hopkins
  • Impulse - Ellen Hopkins
  • People Kill People - Ellen Hopkins
  • Smoke - Ellen Hopkins
  • Tilt - Ellen Hopkins
  • Traffick - Ellen Hopkins
  • After - Amy Efaw
  • Bumped - Megan McCafferty
  • Dime - E.R. Frank
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero
  • Like a Love Story - Abdi Nazemian
  • Native Son - Richard Wright
  • Out of Darkness - Ashley Hope Perez
  • The Opposite of Innocent - Sonya Sones
  • The You I’ve Never Known - Ellen Hopkins
  • Water for Elephants - Sarah Gruen
  • All American Boys - Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • All The Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
  • And They Lived - Steven Salvatore
  • Concrete Rose - Angie Thomas
  • Shout - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut with Ryan North *
  • Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta
  • The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Upside of Unrequited - Becky Albertalli
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue - George M. Johnson **
  • Emergency Contact - Mary H.K. Choi
  • Grit - Gillian French
  • Jay’s Gay Agenda - Jason June
  • Juliet Takes a Breath - Gabby Rivera
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club - Malinda Lo
  • Lucky - Alice Sebold
  • Red, White and Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston
  • The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy - B.T. Gottfred
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  • All Things We Do In the Dark - Saundra Mitchell
  • Ask the Passengers - A.S. King
  • I’ll Give you the Sun - Jandy Nelson
  • Jesus Land - Julia Scheeres
  • Kingdom of Ash - Sarah J. Maas
  • Shine - Lauren Myracle
  • The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  • The Midnight Lie - Marie Rutkoski
  • Tricks - Ellen Hopkins
  • Yolk - Mary H. K. Choi
  • Beloved - Toni Morrison
  • Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare
  • Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
  • Looking for Alaska - John Green
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews
  • Push - Sapphire
  • Queen of Shadows - Sarah J. Maas
  • Sold - Patricia McCormick
  • Unravel Me - Tahereh Mafi
  • Wicked: The life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West - Gregory Maguire
  • Grown - Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe - Preston Norton
  • Nick and Charlie - Alice Oseman
  • Red Hood - Elana Arnold
  • Splendor - Elana K. Arnold
  • The Haters - Jesse Andrews
  • The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  • The Nowhere Girls - Amy Reed
  • Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
  • What Girls Are Made of - Elena K. Arnold
  • Cool For the Summer - Dahlia Adler
  • Felix Ever After - Kacen Callender
  • I am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter - Erika L. Sanchez

All Boys Aren’t Blue was included on a list of challenged books provided by the district. However, the Request for Reconsideration paperwork did not include information on a different novel.

** The Request for Reconsideration paperwork indicates the original 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five was challenged, but a list provided by the district says it was the 2020 graphic novel adaptation by Kurt Vonnegut and Ryan North.