MN lawmakers look to block book bans at schools

If a book is age-appropriate, it shouldn't be banned based on the messages and ideas it conveys. That’s the argument some lawmakers made at the Capitol Wednesday.

"When books are removed from libraries, it harms everyone," said Karlton Laster from OutFront Minnesota, the state's largest LBGTQ+ advocacy group.

At a time when library professionals nationwide are reporting upticks in book challenges, Minnesota school boards say they need guidance.

"I would say that library book policy was the No. 1 request of our 331 school districts throughout the state of Minnesota within the last two years. Please help us. Help us set up procedures," said Dr. Terence Morrow from the Minnesota School Boards Association.

A bill aims to ban the banning of books in schools and public libraries based on their content or the viewpoint they convey. Parents would still be able to request content challenges or alternative instruction. The bill’s author, Rep. Cedrick Frazier, said the proposal's goal is to deter outside groups from funding attempts to challenge titles, costing districts money in the process.

"They know that the book may not specifically be inappropriate, but it is something that they don't like: the ideology or the author of the books, political affiliation or cultural or demographic backgrounds," said Frazier, DFL-New Hope.

Much of the discussion during the House Education Policy Committee hearing Wednesday focused on making sure students see themselves reflected in what they read.

"Last fall, a group petitioned our school board to immediately and permanently removed 28 titles from our K-12 public school libraries. Their list contained primarily books featuring or written by members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color," said Bloomington parent Kendra Redmond.

Meanwhile, multiple Republican lawmakers encouraged the committee to prioritize literacy skills instead.

"[If] they can't read, it doesn't matter what book you put in front of their face. Every book is banned for a kiddo that cannot read, and that's what we should be focusing on right now," said Rep. Patricia Mueller, R-Austin.

Wednesday was the second time the committee discussed this bill. It now heads to another committee for further consideration.