Book ban: Horry County school board members should find their spines | Opinion

Moms for Liberty, which has long pretended it is just about protecting the precious little children, showed its hand recently. The group petitioned the Horry County Board of Education to ban a book that had been available only for adults. The board dutifully and cowardly went along.

The book was “Freedom Writers Diary” by Erin Gruwell. The board also banned “Crown of Midnight” by Sarah Maas and put “Heir of Fire” by Maas on a list that requires parental permission.

Issac Bailey
Issac Bailey

It was the first time the board overruled the District-Level Media Material Review Committee, a group designated to review challenged books. The committee wanted “Heir of Fire” to remain in circulation, “Crown of Midnight” to require parental permission, and “Freedom Writers Diary” banned.

Moms for Liberty did what it always does, claim that “the graphic nature” of the books, especially “those depicting sexual context raises serious concerns about the suitability for our young students,” as Horry County Moms for Liberty chairman David Warner put in his complaint to the committee and the board.

I asked Warner how a book designated for adults could be dangerous to “our young students.”

“I do not believe that the sexually explicit material in ‘The Freedom Writers’ book makes a teacher better informed to teach his or her students,” he said. “Ensuring children are shielded from inappropriate content extends to examining the teacher training and resources used in schools. It’s important for us to question educational materials to safeguard our children’s learning environment.”

“Freedom Writers Diary” became a motion picture starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and was based on the writings of 150 at-risk high school students in Long Beach, California, who discovered parallels between their struggles and young people far away after their teacher introduced them to classics such as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and “Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo.”

Moms for Liberty reduced the book to its “graphic nature” and “sexual content.” I asked Warner if the Christian Bible — which is plenty graphic, including depictions of sex and violence — could similarly be reduced. He didn’t answer. But he pretended the books haven’t actually been banned because they “are available in public libraries and bookstores.”

It’s a typical move by Moms for Liberty. It successfully gets books banned from schools but pretends they don’t believe in bans. They say their focus is young people, but sometimes go after books only available to adults. The Horry County school board should be ashamed it allowed itself to be bullied into banning books that should not have been banned, and even more ashamed they joined a growing list of cowardly leaders around the country giving into the latest moral panic.

History never looks kindly on book banners.

Not too long ago, I attended an Horry County school board meeting during which a large, angry crowd was upset about what they called “CRT” after critical race theory became the bogeyman of the month for people with nothing better to do. It was obvious school board members didn’t know much about that graduate school-level theory, and neither did any of the several people I spoke to after the meeting — even though they had just railed against it.

That’s why I must admit Moms for Liberty isn’t the real problem. Activist groups of all kinds push boundaries and do their best to impose their worldview on the rest of us, like Moms for Liberty has repeatedly done. That includes in Tennessee where they argued that books such as “Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story” by civil rights icon Ruby Bridges supposedly contain anti-white content because they accurately depict the white racist violence unleashed upon a Black girl during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Problems arise when our elected officials are too weak or uninformed to stand up to them. Horry County school board members need to locate their spines — and soon — because this is only the beginning.

Issac Bailey is a McClatchy Opinion writer in North and South Carolina.