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1 parent is responsible for a book ban in North Carolina

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

The U.S. is seeing a surge in efforts to ban or restrict books in schools. One school board in North Carolina recently voted to temporarily remove a book about the history of racism in the U.S. from high school classrooms. And as WHQR's Rachel Keith reports, a lone parent was behind the move.

RACHEL KEITH, BYLINE: Katie Gates was upset that her daughter's teacher assigned the book "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You" in an AP language and composition class. She told the school board at a packed public hearing the book is anti-American.

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KATIE GATES: They brainwash the reader that all the white people are racist and are to blame for everything wrong in America. How do you think these claims make everyday average white students required to read this book feel?

KEITH: Gates was demanding the removal of the book from the curriculum. "Stamped" is a frequent target for book bans across the country. Assistant Superintendent Dawn Brinson tried to defend the use of the book to no avail.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAWN BRINSON: Ms. Gates's claim that "Stamped" is anti-American is not a fact. It is her opinion.

KEITH: Gates had tried unsuccessfully to convince two curriculum committees to remove the book. Her last resort - the school board. Last November, Republicans swept the elections, taking control from Democrats. Those GOP candidates campaigned on parental rights and stopping what they call liberal indoctrination in schools. Enough Republicans agreed with Gates, who welcomed the decision to pull the book.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GATES: I feel like there's accountability. To me, that's huge.

KEITH: Katie Gates is an active member of the local GOP. But Republicans aren't always in lockstep in removing controversial texts from the nation's classrooms. A national NPR/Ipsos poll conducted in May of this year shows that half of Republicans oppose book bans. So does Stephanie Kraybill. She was the only Republican on the school board to oppose the book's removal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHANIE KRAYBILL: I've been a Republican since I was 18 years old. I believe that the Republican Party in some areas of our country has morphed away from just conservative, moderate values.

KEITH: New Hanover County Schools serves suburban Wilmington, and its student population is 60% white. What worries North Carolina NAACP President Deborah Dicks Maxwell is that the school board is ignoring important Black voices.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEBORAH DICKS MAXWELL: So it's going to make teachers who decide the curriculum to pick the safe route instead of the route that will envelop more critical thinking. You just diminished it by your vote.

KEITH: As for the teacher, Kelli Kidwell, who had required the book, she now has to choose another text that the board said needs to be, quote, "balanced." She says she's disappointed that one parent can have so much control over her classroom.

KELLI KIDWELL: I feel a little powerless because I feel like this is just the first of many dominoes to fall before the tides shift again. But I will continue to teach to the best of my ability and do right by the students I have in my classroom right now.

KEITH: The North Carolina NAACP is now considering a lawsuit similar to the one in South Carolina where parents are challenging a school board that also voted to remove "Stamped" from classrooms.

For NPR News, I'm Rachel Keith in Wilmington, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rachel Keith
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