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Posted under: News

Missouri School Board Reverses Its Decision To Ban Toni Morrison's Book 'The Bluest Eye'

The school board decided to reverse its decision after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed.

The Wentzville school board in St. Louis backpedaled on its decision to ban the novel The Bluest Eye by the late author Toni Morrison, The Guardian reports.

The Missouri school board's initial vote to ban the book, which occurred in January with a 4-3 vote, was reversed Thursday after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed by two students, CNN reports.



A district review committee voted to retain the book prior to the school board's vote to remove it.

"This novel has value towards a supportive WSD curriculum and students' growth as readers and learners," the committee's summary notes read, Fox 2 Now reports. "This novel helps the reader step into and understand 1941 (pre-WWII, pre-civil rights movement), small-town black culture in a way no textbook can do. There is also value for the reader in reading and being exposed to Toni Morrison's prose and manner of writing, which is unique to her."

According to Britannica, the book, which has been criticized by conservatives, is about a Black girl named Pecola Breedlove who is living in poverty at the end of the Great Depression and yearns for blue eyes because she believes her life would improve.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students, contending that the Missouri school board prohibited books that would engage students with a "diversity of ideas and minority viewpoints, including with respect to race, gender, and sexual identity," and also pointed out that the board is banning books due to "ideological disagreement," according to CNN.

"Wentzville's policies still make it easy for any community member to force any book from the shelves even when they shamelessly target books by and about communities of color, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups," Anthony Rothert, director of Integrated Advocacy of ACLU of Missouri, said, according to The Guardian.

"Access to The Bluest Eye was taken from students for three months just because a community member did not think they should have access to Toni Morrison's story," Rothert added.

The American Library Association (ALA) noted that book banning has increased. 

"It's a volume of challenges I've never seen in my time at the ALA — the last 20 years," Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, told The Guardian.

According to the ALA, the basis for removing books from school shelves stems from if the works touch upon topics like LGBTQ+ issues and racism, as well as whether they feature sexual references, religious viewpoints, police brutality and profanity.

"We're seeing a disregard for policy and a kind of a moral panic over a number of novels and graphic novels that are in school libraries that are intended for adolescents to access and read," Caldwell-Stone said. "We're seeing censorship to impose particular agendas, representing particular political or religious beliefs. It's really disheartening."

However, one board member did vote against the book at the Thursday meeting, saying it lacked educational and social value for students and could be "extremely harmful."

Rothert said in a statement that school boards shouldn't remove books simply because they are not aligned with the characters' experiences and views.

"School boards cannot ban books because the books and their characters illustrate viewpoints different of those of school board; especially when they target books presenting the viewpoints of racial and sexual minorities, as they have done in Wentzville," said Rothert, according to Ed Week.

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