NAACP Files New Lawsuit Alleging Pickens County School Board Book Ban is Unconstitutional and Politically Motivated

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(Columbia, SC) – A lawsuit filed today in United States District Court seeks to reverse the Pickens County School Board’s decision to remove Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You from every school in the district. The lawsuit alleges that the District’s removal of Stamped is politically and racially motivated censorship that cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment. 

According to the lawsuit, which was brought by three families on behalf of their minor children in Pickens County Schools and the Pickens Branch of the NAACP through their attorneys from the NAACP and the ACLU of South Carolina, Stamped was reviewed and unanimously approved for classroom and library use by separate school- and district-level review committees. Those committees — which were comprised of educators, administrators, and parents — concluded that Stamped is developmentally appropriate for high school students, that it is aligned with SC Department of Education’s English Language Arts standards, and that it should remain as a resource in classrooms, libraries, and media centers. But in September, without explanation, the Pickens County School Board rejected those conclusions and voted unanimously to remove the book entirely from district schools.

“The Board’s decision to remove Stamped was antithetical to the First Amendment and reflects a deep hostility towards America’s promise of a free and pluralistic society,” said Allen Chaney, Legal Director for the ACLU of South Carolina. “We are hopeful that the courts will vindicate the Constitution and rebuke the cresting wave of censorship we’re experiencing across South Carolina.” 

“The NAACP and the Office of General Counsel are proud to stand in support of the Pickens County Branch of the NAACP and the local families advocating on behalf of their children as they fight against this unjust and unlawful censorship,” said Martina Tiku, Assistant General Counsel of the NAACP. “This lawsuit represents a continuation of their unwavering advocacy and will act as the next step in ensuring that children in Pickens County have access to an education free from such political attacks.” 

“Educators and library systems are under attack through this newfound increase of support to ban culturally relevant books from our schools, curriculum, and educational institutions. The groups who are behind these book bans are discriminatively targeting books that highlight and discuss race, culture, women’s issues, and LGBTQ issues. The NAACP is actively fighting against any unjustified book bans and will continue to support teachers, libraries and other institutions who are targeted by censorship,” said NAACP State Conference President Brenda Murphy. “It has been made inherently evident that the true intent behind banning certain books is to destroy the relevance of Black history and that of historically marginalized groups. The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP will not stand by, voiceless, allowing politicians and radical groups to erase our history or culture.” 

NAACP Pickens County Branch President Shelia Crawford stated, “Black history is American history. We have a responsibility to provide our students with a complete teaching of our nation’s history – both the good and the bad. The Pickens County School Board’s decision to ban “Stamped” from the public school curriculum is a disservice to all of our students. The Pickens County Branch of the NAACP is proud to stand with the national NAACP and ACLU of South Carolina in this lawsuit to protect a curriculum that celebrates diversity, promotes equity, while furthering justice for Black America.”

The lawsuit asserts that the school board’s vote to remove the book aligns with Freedom Caucus ideology meaning it is politically motivated censorship and therefore unconstitutional. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the removal of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You unconstitutional, allowing for its return to classrooms, libraries, media centers in Pickens County.  

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