‘We’re not about banning the books:’ 40 books pulled from Pender school libraries

‘We’re not about banning the books:’ 40 books pulled from Pender school libraries
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 5:12 PM EST
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Dozens of books are no longer available on the shelves of Pender County Schools’ libraries.

The list of books was created by the group Concerned Citizens of Pender County, and the school board ultimately agreed to review the books after hearing numerous concerns from the community.

“We got this grievance together, we put a lot of time into it,” said Patricia Koluch, who has grandchildren in Pender County Schools. “We were pretty confident when we sent it to the board that we had compiled enough information to convince them that there needed to be a book committee of some sort or even them deciding ‘hey, these books are over the top, we need to pull them.’”

The list of 40 books included a range of titles, like “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl,” “13 Reasons Why,” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” They ranged in topics from the LGBTQ community to self-harm and suicide. The group of concerned citizens created a 28-page document explaining why they believe the books aren’t suitable for school library shelves.

They also argue the books may be considered child pornography and therefore would be illegal.

“I was finding them all in my school,” Koluch said. “I started reading them and then I was just getting, I couldn’t read them anymore, I was getting nauseated.”

A similar issue came up when a group of parents in Wilmington filed a complaint with the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office last year, making the same allegations of obscene or pornographic material in schools. District Attorney Ben David ultimately determined the first amendment protected the books and the staff who provided them.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Pender County Schools told WECT the school board had not received a formal challenge to any of the books that were pulled for review. Formal challenges are submitted through the Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Resources page on the district’s website.

However, after numerous concerns from the community, the board asked the district’s Media and Technology Advisory Committee to review the content. While that review is in progress, the books will not be available to students.

“I was happy that children weren’t being subjected to that without their parent permission and without the knowledge of the community knowing what they were looking at,” Koluch said.

Whether the books will eventually return to library shelves is at the will of the committee. Koluch said she just wants to make sure the titles are age appropriate for the students who have access to them.

“We’re not about banning the books,” she said. “Looking at some of the books, we’re like, well, parent permission, possibly. Does it belong in the middle schools? No.”

The books include:

  • A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  • A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Silver Flames - Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue - George M. Johnson
  • All the Thing We Do in the Dark - Saundra Mitchell
  • Allegedly - Tiffany Jackson
  • Are You My Mother? - Allison Bechdel
  • Boy Girl Boy - Ron Koertge
  • Cemetery Boys - Aiden Thomas
  • Crank - Ellen Hopkins
  • Damsel - Elana Arnold
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better - Adib Khorram
  • Dreaming in Cuban - Cristina Garcia
  • Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Forever... - Judy Blume
  • Gender Queer - Maia Kobabe
  • George - Alex Gino
  • Go Ask Alice - Anonymous
  • I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter - Erika Sanchez
  • Identical - Ellen Hopkins
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club - Malinda Lo
  • Lawn Boy - Jonathan Evison
  • Looking for Alaska - John Green
  • Me Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews
  • Melissa - Alex Gino
  • None of the Above - I. W. Gregorio
  • Out of Darkness - Ashley Hope Perez
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  • Rethinking Normal - Katie Rain Hill
  • Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Sold - Patricia McCormick
  • Speak - Laurie H. Anderson
  • Speak: the graphic novel - Laurie H. Anderson
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
  • The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta
  • The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
  • Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
  • This One Summer - Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
  • What Girls Are Made Of - Elana K. Arnold
  • When I Was the Greatest - Jason Reynolds”