Book Banning by the Numbers

Book Banning - person in a gas mask holds an open book that is on fire
Photo by Kyle Cleveland/Unsplash

“The Child of Fear, and the Father of Ignorance”*

By Paul Cymrot

Compiled by the good folks at Riverby Books:

  1. Number of parents who have issued book challenges in Spotsylvania County, Virginia: 1 
  2. Number of books that parent has challenged, at a minimum: 60
  3. Number of books that have gone through the review process and reached the desk of the Superintendent for a decision about appropriateness: 14
  4. Number of books that the Superintendent has chosen to ban from Spotsy County Schools: 14
  5. Number of those books that the Review Committees read in their entireties and deemed “appropriate” for school libraries: 14
  6. Number of those same books that the Superintendent claims to have read himself, in his memo explaining why he banned them: 0
  7. Number of years of professional educational experience the Superintendent has: 0
  8. Number of additional challenged books that have been removed from the School Libraries pending review, despite there being no instruction in the Spotsy school handbook requiring that these books be removed from the shelves during this process: 46
  9. Number of books in the Spotsy School Library system: 390,000
  10. Percentage of books in Spotsy System that no parent has ever objected to: 99.985
  11. Number of other Spotsy School programs/facilities with a 99.985 percent approval rating: 0
  12. Number of students who have been demonstrably harmed by these books: 0
  13. Number of students who have complained about these books: 0
  14. Number of the 14 banned books that were written by or are about non-white and/or non-heterosexual characters: 10
  15. Number of times the Superintendent cites Virginia Code 22.1-16.8 as his reason for banning the books: 1
  16. Number of times Virginia Code 22.1-16.8 says, “the provisions of this act shall not be construed as requiring or providing for the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools”: 1
  17. Amount, per hour, we were charged by Spotsy Schools for time spent doing paperwork to meet our FOIA Request to see the book challenges and associated paperwork: $30.44
  18. Number of hours, at a minimum, that Spotsylvania County employees and community members have spent doing paperwork and reviewing the challenged books: 1,966
  19. Minimum amount this review process would have cost so far, if the community of volunteers who worked on review committees (and Spotsy employees dragged into this) charged the school system at the same rate the school system billed us: $59,845.04:
  20. Days from this article’s June 1 publication in Pie & Chai until the next Spotsylvania County School Board elections (Nov 7, 2023): 159
  21. Number of School Board members whose terms are up at that time: 4
  22. Number of those School Board members whose terms are up this year who said that Spotsylvania County should “burn” the challenged books: 2

[* Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” –Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak.]

Paul Cymrot is the owner of Riverby Books, located at 805 Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg, VA, 22401. You can follow the Riverby Facebook page for updates on what’s happening to the Spotsylvania County school libraries, along with suggestions for what you can do to help save them.