INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Four parents, on behalf of their students, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, challenging the Independence School District’s policy on banning books.
The book that came before the lawsuit is “Cats vs. Robots #1: This is War.” A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday says in three of the book’s 307 pages, there’s discussion of a non-binary character, somebody who doesn’t identify as a male or female.
In April, the district received a complaint about the book being available from a parent. A district committee met in May. In June, the Independence School Board voted 6-1 to remove the book, but they’ve only removed it from the elementary school shelves.
“We’ve not challenged the removal of that specific book,” ACLU of Missouri Deputy Director of Litigation Gillian Wilcox said in an interview with FOX4 Wednesday. “We are challenging the policy that allows for automatic removal upon receipt of any challenge by any person.”
The school district did not talk to FOX4 on camera Wednesday.
“The District stands behind its policy, which is thoughtful, well-considered, and calculated to balance and protect the rights of all students and their parents,” a spokeswoman for the district said in a statement. “The policy is also not unique to the Independence School District. Nearly identical policies are used by numerous public school districts throughout the state, including at least one that withstood a similar legal challenge by the ACLU.”
“The District will vigorously defend against this lawsuit. It is unfortunate that the District will be required to expend taxpayer funds to defend against the ACLU’s latest unfounded complaint.”
“We believe the policy is unconstitutional,” Wilcox said in response to the district’s statement. “That’s why we’re taking this case to court.”
“I would not file an unfounded complaint,” she said when asked if this was an unfounded complaint.
“Independence School District parents implored the District to get rid of its unconstitutional book ban policy,” Deputy Director of Communications for the ACLU of Missouri Tom Bastian said in a follow up statement.
“They resorted to litigation only because the District would not budge. The District is choosing to waste taxpayer money to litigate its uniquely unconstitutional policy instead of simply adopting a policy that does not attack its students’ rights as other school districts have.”
Wilcox thinks it will be about a month before a judge decides whether there will be a hearing on this case or not.