PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The Pickens County NAACP has joined local families in a lawsuit challenging the banning of a book from school libraries.
In September 2022, the Pickens County school board unanimously voted to remove ‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (Stamped)’ from school libraries for five years.
‘Stamped’ is a New York Times best seller and has won multiple awards. It traces a history of racism in America through present day, with a stated purpose of building towards a “antiracist America.”
The book was written specifically for young-adult readers, and includes an educator guide, book club guide and other classroom resources.
The author of the book states “The first step to building antiracist America is acknowledging America’s racist past. By acknowledging America’s racist past, we can acknowledge America’s racist present.”
“If you never have the opportunity to discuss it, and that’s what schools are for, to teach students and have an opportunity for them to learn and grow. Without having books of this nature then they are denied those discussions,” said Shelia D. Crawford, president of the Pickens County NAACP.
The removal came after a parent of a Pickens County student asked the book to be reviewed by the board.
Said the district of the decision at the time: “The selection of instructional materials follows SC state board of education regulations as well as other legal requirements. All materials will support the district’s educational philosophy, goals and objectives.”
“The one thing we hope comes from this is that parents understand that our teachers are professionals,” Crawford said. “They have gone to school. They have earned the right to teach and if they choose material of this sort to help educate their students then they should have that right.”
Crawford tells us the discussion and public hearings went on for several months where most of the time, half of the room favored the book being banned and half of the room believed it was unconstitutional to ban the book.
“Our American history is what it is,” Crawford said. “It is good and bad, but children only know what they are taught. Some children come from environments where they never hear about black history. Our school is where they learn. Not trying to persuade them but just trying to provide them with information so that when they make life decisions, they have all of the facts.”
According to the lawsuit, the board overrode findings of school-and district-level review committees which recommended the book remain available to students.
In response to the removal a group of parents sued the school district on behalf of their children, who attend middle and high schools in the school district.
The lawsuit claims that by banning ‘Stamped,’ the district violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“But the school library is a place of exploration, not inculcation. The First Amendment guards the school library against orthodoxy and indoctrination, and protects students’ rights to inquire, to study and evaluate, and to gain new ideas and understanding,” the suit reads.
Families and the NAACP are asking courts to return all previously removed copies of ‘Stamped’ to school libraries and prevent the district from prohibiting the book from being used as a classroom resource.
You can read the full complaint here: