Alabama bins $16,000 worth of books because of ‘woke’ LGBTQ+ content

A pile of books tied up together in the corner of a room.

The Alabama Department of Education has ripped up more than $16,000 (£13,000) worth of teacher-training books because they covered LGBTQ+ and racial topics.

A huge collection of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) developmentally appropriate practice books, containing a section on LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality, were destroyed.

An offending excerpt from the books reads: “LGBTQIA+ [people] need to hear and see messages that promote equality, dignity and worth.”

As a leading US pre-school not-for-profit organisation, the NAEYC accredits hundreds of high-quality early-childcare facilities and focuses on improving the wellbeing of young children.

Republican governor Kay Ivey said the books included “content that is simply not in line with what the Ivey administration or the people of Alabama stand for or believe”.

She added: “The education of Alabama’s children is my top priority as governor, and there is absolutely no room to distract or take away from this mission.

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“Let me be crystal clear: woke concepts that have zero to do with a proper education, and that are divisive at the core, have no place in Alabama classrooms at any age level, let alone with our youngest learners. We want our children to be focused on the fundamentals, such as reading and math[s].”

The teacher-training books are aimed at helping pre-school and elementary school teachers improve their classroom skills. They are not intended to be read by or taught to young children.

According to Ivey’s spokeswoman, Gina Maiola, these subjects included guidance on “larger systemic forces that perpetuate systems of white privilege” and that the United States is “built on systemic and structural racism”.

Alabama’s head of department for early childhood education, Barbara Cooper, was forced to resign after state officials seized the books.

Photographs taken and shared with local news organisation AL show more than 100 of the NAEYC manuals thrown across the floor of an Alabama recycling centre where they were destroyed.

An NAEYC representative told AL that its books were created to serve “as the foundation for high-quality, early-childhood education” across the US, including in Alabama.

“While not a curriculum, it is a responsive, educator-developed, educator-informed and research-based resource that has been honed over multiple generations to support teachers in helping all children thrive,” the spokesperson said.

The ‘vast majority’ of books banned are about LGBTQ+ people, experts say

The move comes amid unprecedented book bans across the US, predominantly over so-called “woke” imagery and subjects such as LGBTQ+ rights or critical race theory.

The American Library Association (ALA) reported earlier this year that at least 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources were made in 2022.

According to the report, a record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship – a 38 per cent increase from 2021. The “vast majority” of these books were written by or about members of the LGBTQ+ community.

ALA interim director for intellectual freedom, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, said they were seeing book challenges “come from organised censorship groups” that specifically target local libraries.

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of colour,” she claimed.

“Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore.”

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