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Columbia library hosts panel on public school censorship

Daniel Boone Regional Library hosted seven panelists and local youth Wednesday night to discuss the risks of censorship and importance of books in public schools following Senate Bill 775, which went into effect on Aug. 28, 2022.

One amendment to the bill prohibits “explicit sexual material” in public school libraries. The bill has largely been used in public school libraries to ban books that tell diverse stories.

A recurring theme throughout the discussions was the importance of diverse stories and making those stories accessible to schoolchildren.

Panelist Angie Zapata is an associate professor of literacy at MU. She said oftentimes, young people first encounter others unlike themselves in the pages of a book.

“We need to cultivate a classroom text environment and a curriculum where all of our children see themselves. It can also be an opportunity for children to encounter worlds that are different from their own,” Zapata said.

A youth speaker at the panel, 10-year-old Margot Munter values stories from worlds outside of her own.

“I just feel like if we had all the same kind of people in every single story, it would get really boring,” Munter said.

During the Q&A, audience members were encouraged to look at the issue of censorship in Missouri as a symptom of a larger issue.

Audience member and MU research associate Christa Copeland wanted to “[make] sure that we remember that this points to a larger concern.”

Copeland said the issue of censorship is connected to other problems, like the shortage of diversity in the education workforce and lack of representation in media overall.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.