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Virginia ranked second highest in attempts to restrict books

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(The Center Square) — Over 4,000 books were challenged in school and public libraries in 2023 – more than any year the American Library Association has on record – and Virginia was a hotspot for such activity, according to the Association’s data.

Only a handful of states received complaints about more than 300 books: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Virginia. While there were only 25 attempts in the commonwealth to restrict access to certain books, 387 titles were challenged in those attempts.

Nationally, most of the contested books contained LGBTQ+ material or concerned people of color, according to the Association. The number of disputed titles has increased exponentially since 2020. Between 2000-2020, the annual total dipped as low as 190 and peaked at less than 400. But in 2021, the number skyrocketed to 1,858 – over eight times as many titles as 2020’s (fairly average) 223.

Virginia was the second-most popular state for attempts to restrict access to books in 2022, though it lagged the first state, Texas, by 764 titles.

Hanover, Rockingham and Spotsylvania counties are a few of the more well-known for removing books from school curriculum or library shelves, most often for sexually explicit content. Hanover made the news for banning 75 books in November; Spotsylvania nabbed headlines a couple of times for banning 37 books; and more recently, Rockingham County Public Schools’ school board voted to ban 57 books.

The General Assembly passed two bills this session, introduced by Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, that would have made it more difficult for school boards to ban books from their curriculum, but Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed them within a week of sine die adjournment.

A two-thirds majority in both chambers would be required to override the governor’s vetoes.

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