Connect with us


The Book Ban Debate Came to This Surprising U.S. Town



The big vote on book banning on Thursday night was not in some red state where it has become a predictable part of the culture wars.

The vote was in Connecticut. And not only that, it was in Newtown, a town whose very name is an horrific reminder that a single AR-15 is more of a threat to children than all the books in the world.

One of the two books targeted for banning in Newton had never even been checked out. The other had been checked out just once, nearly a decade ago.

And both had been approved in recent weeks by a special committee of educators and experts.

But Republicans on the Newtown Board of Education sought to have Flamer by Mike Curato and Blankets by Craig Thompson removed from the local high school library as if Connecticut was some benighted red state.

After the 20 youngsters and six staff members were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school, there was a nationwide call for an assault rifle ban. Fools of the far right continued to insist that civilians should have easy access to such weapons of war even as another mass school shooting is followed by another and another and another.


In recent years, those same fervent opponents of banning assault weapons have begun to clamor for banning books that professional educators have deemed appropriate for students.

As the director of the Cyrenius H. Booth Library in Newtown and the Connecticut Library Association, Douglas Lord took a particular interest in the rising interest in book banning in other states.

“When people think of it, they think of Florida, Texas, Louisiana,” Lord told The Daily Beast. “I thought, ‘Well that will never happen in Newtown.’”

Lord recalled that when he was pondering whether to take the job in Newtown six years ago, he looked into the curriculum of the schools.

“They actually had a kindness component to the curriculum,” he remembered. “And I went, ‘Oh, wow, this is like a community that’s healing. They’re progressing, they’re advanced. They are taking the awful horrific murder of 26 people and trying to do something constructive with it.”

As the chief local librarian, Lord receives the school board minutes. And sometime in March, he saw the first sign that book-banning madness had begun to spread to Newtown.

“I didn’t think it would go anywhere in this community at all,” Lord recalled.


And the nascent uprising against books seemed D.O.A. when a five-member Special Review Committee unanimously found that the two books that had been the target of complaints should remain in the high school library.

Newtown Schools Superintendent Christopher Melillo endorsed the committee’s determination on May 2, and that should have been the end of the matter.

But the plot thickened at a raucous May 16 meeting, where the three Democrats on the board moved to allow students continued access to the books. There are four Republican board members, but one was absent due to a family crisis, so the vote was 3-3, and the rules called for a repeat vote at the next meeting. At that meeting, scheduled for Thursday night, the Republican majority was expected to be restored, and book banning might then come to the town that knows bans should be reserved for real threats such as assault rifles.

“The degree of suffering and turning itself inside out this community has gone through only to be caught up in a noisy, probably not very fruitful cacophony of this type… it seems out of character somehow,” Lord noted.

The Newtown Meeting House is seen prior to the 10th remembrance of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 8, 2022.

Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters

The narrative took an unexpected turn on Wednesday, when two of the Republican board members, Janet Kuzma and Jennifer Larkin, abruptly resigned. Both insisted it was unrelated to the issue at hand, though they complained they had been harassed and verbally abused at the previous meeting. Whatever the reason, their resignations meant they would not go down on the record as book banners.


Lord figures that the overwhelming majority of people he encounters in Newtown see no reason for a ban, along with the accompanying fuss. And Newtown can be a very small town, where everybody knows everybody.

“Something like this has been very upsetting for the quiet, well-heeled suburban community that is Newtown, Connecticut,” he said.

Since the 2012 mass shooting that killed 26 people, the residents have worked to establish and maintain a reputation for “Newtown Nicer.” Some of that apparently was at work in the run-up to Thursday’s meeting.

A public comment period came first, and a majority of those who took the microphone were high school students, many of them graduating seniors who were in kindergarten when first-graders were shot to death. They were passionately articulate. And to hear them was to think what those murdered kids just a year older in 2014 would have grown up to become.

Then came the first order of business. Alison Plante, one of the Democratic members of the board, made a renewed motion with a slight twist.

“I move that the Board of Education accept the recommendation of the special review committee and that Flamer and Blankets remain in circulation in the Newtown High School Library,” she said.

Then came a bit of Newtown Nice as she added, “…provided that the administration developed the process to address individual parent concerns related to their children.”


In a brief discussion, it was made clear that the books would remain on the shelves. No objections came from the chair or the other Republican, Don Ramsey, who was back in attendance.

The big moment arrived. Five right hands that the board members had placed over their hearts at the opening Pledge of Allegiance now raised in a unanimous vote that meant book banning had not come to Newtown after all.

There is still the question of an assault weapon ban in the red states that try to tell us they are worried about the children.

If only the rest of the disunited United States was Newtown nice.

Source: The Daily Beast


Follow us on Google News to get the latest Updates