For immediate release | August 18, 2023

FTRF, AASL Join Amicus Brief in Support of Publishers, Booksellers and Authors Challenging Texas School Book Censorship Law

CHICAGO -- The Freedom to Read Foundation and the American Association of School Librarians have joined the Association of University Presses, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Freedom to Learn Advocates in filing an amicus curiae brief that supports the request by the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and two Texas bookstores to halt enforcement of the Texas law HB 900 on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment rights of booksellers, publishers, authors and students.

HB 900 would compel any vendor who sells books to a Texas school district or charter school to review and rate all of the books already sold to the school and any book it wishes to sell to schools in the future. Books would be rated as either "sexually explicit," "sexually relevant" or "no rating" based on unclear and arbitrary government criteria. Under the law, elementary and high school students would not be allowed to read or borrow books that merely touch on the topics of sex or relationships regardless of the work’s literary, scientific or artistic value. The law not only impairs students’ freedom to read and learn, it also places many of the classic and contemporary books usually found in school and classroom libraries at risk of unconstitutional censorship.

Moreover, the law would compel booksellers, publishers, and authors to label their books as “sexually explicit” and “sexually relevant” based on the same murky, vague and arbitrary standards, forcing them to stigmatize the books they make available regardless of their own beliefs. If they do not comply with the law’s coercive and unconstitutional requirements, they would be banned from selling any books to public K-12 schools.

“As the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, school boards and elected officials — including state legislators — need to comply with longstanding constitutional safeguards when they provide for students’ education," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. "FTRF is proud to stand with the students of Texas and fight to protect their right to read, inquire and gain new understanding of themselves and the world around them through books. And FTRF will always be on the front lines in the fight to protect the right of publishers, booksellers and authors to publish without government interference.”

"The AASL National School Library Standards are based on common beliefs that reading is the core of personal and academic competency with intellectual freedom as every learner’s right,” said Sylvia Knight Norton, Executive Director of the American Association of School Librarians. “AASL is honored to proactively speak out for the rights of Texas students, publishers, authors, and book sellers and to show support for the future of all learners."

About the American Association of School Librarians

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has supported school librarians and the school library community in the United States, Canada, and around the world since 1951. AASL leaders understand the current realities and evolving dynamics of the professional environment and are positioned to help members achieve universal recognition of school librarians as indispensable educational leaders.

About the Freedom to Read Foundation

Founded in 1969, the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) is a non-profit legal and educational organization affiliated with the American Library Association. FTRF protects and defends the First Amendment to the Constitution and supports the right of libraries to collect—and individuals to access—information. Staff and trustees do this work with a focus on First Amendment education, litigation and advocacy.

Read the brief here



Shawnda Hines

Deputy Director, Communications

American Library Association

Public Policy & Advocacy Office