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Open Letter to Schools

ACLU Massachusetts & GLAD

Equality, Free Speech, and Democracy-related Implications of Calls to Remove School Library Books - ACLU & GLAD

"Library book removals are often not only contrary to an appropriate educational mission, they raise serious legal issues of discrimination in education and violation of the right to receive information, which is protected by constitutional and statutory free speech guarantees.

Equality based on race, national origin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation

Removing books that reflect the experiences of members of LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color is inconsistent with our state and federal legal protections and may constitute unlawful discrimination. Massachusetts law protects the right to equality in the educational experience. Indeed, the Declaration of Rights mandates equal protection of the law, including at all levels of public education. See Finch v. Commonwealth Health Ins. Connector Auth., 459 Mass. 655, 667 (2011) (“Equal protection of the laws is a concept that permeates the Massachusetts Constitution”); see also Commonwealth v. Carter, 488 Mass. 191, 202 (2021) (holding equal protection guarantees apply to sexual orientation and transgender status under Declaration of Rights and U.S. Constitution). And state law expressly prohibits discrimination in public secondary schools on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation with regard to the advantages, privileges, and courses of study of public schools. G.L. c. 76, § 5. In addition, federal law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of race, national origin, or sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Books being targeted for removal are often those that reflect experiences by members of the LGBTQ+ communities, of which (of course) students themselves or their family members may be a part. Having access to these books not only helps educate all students about the experiences of others but also creates a more inclusive and supportive environment for students whose history and experiences are reflected. Nationally, LGBTQ+ youth are far more likely to be bullied and harassed at school, alienated from their families and communities, and suffer from depression and suicidal ideation than their non-LGBTQ+ peers."

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