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Academy District 20 to put banned books back on the shelf ahead of new school year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - After taking two books some parents claimed were sexually explicit off of District 20 shelves last semester, the district will be putting them back in school libraries.

The decision was made after Rob Rogers, a D20 parent and political activist, and Freedom From Religion moved to ban the Bible since he said it had similarly provocative material.

“If the school district is going to be using unilateral decision-making processes outside of policy to decide to remove certain books because of the viewpoint and the request of a certain segment of the population, then that has to be applied equitably,” Rogers said.

The school reconsidered its decision to ban the titles "Push" by Sapphire and "Identical" by Ellen Hopkins and found its previous decision inconsistent with its policies. Those policies require multiple hearings and considerations and might mitigate the bias Rogers is talking about.

Academy District 20 "Educational Material" (unaffiliated with the school district directly)
Academy District 20 "Educational Material" - unaffiliated with District 20

According to Rogers, his intention was not to ban the Bible, but to call attention to the fact that school district policy hadn't been followed.

Former D20 Superintendent Tom Gregory had banned the books quickly by circumventing the necessary steps after El Paso Moms for Liberty sent the district an email that cited sexually explicit passages from two titles available to students in the district.

The email, according to our former reporting, claimed that the content in the books promoted "obscenity to a minor" which they said is "a class 6 felony."

"Ya know there was a book that I was reading yesterday that was in D20. And it was about a girl -- and I won't repeat the actual verbiage -- but the girl was talking about her father raping her. And just the utter sexual descriptions -- I mean they were just so brutal," Darcy Shoening, the co-chair of Moms for Liberty El Paso County, told KRDO in May.

While this claim may have added urgency, according to the Communications Director for the District, part of the reason this decision circumvented policy had to do with the fact that it was in May, the end of the school year. A formal book ban process can take weeks and a lot of manpower. The district superintendent was also set to retire shortly after.

However, none of the parties involved with the book-banning process have actually filed a formal book challenge, something that anyone can do through the district's website. This means that the decision made in May is no longer in motion until any one of the parties decides to go through the formal process.

"The frequency of book challenges definitely increased in the last two years," Allison Cortez, the Chief Communications Officer for D20 said. "So, truly in this in the six years previous to this school year, we had one book that went all the way through a formal book Challenge meaning from School to Board of Education. This past year we had five in one year, so that's a significant increase."

Cortez also mentioned that even though many parents seem to be concerned about their rights being taken away, there are multiple ways for them to protect their children - parents can keep their kids from checking out books they deem inappropriate through the library website.

"I would very much like to say that we're a parental rights district," said Cortez. "We know that parents know their student better than we know their student. And so we would just advocate that they work with their teacher, with the librarians, with the school district to make sure that that they understand all of those different measures that we have in place."

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Emily Coffey

Emily is a Reporter for KRDO. Learn more about her here.


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