Publisher denies ‘bigot button’ allegations after flagging queer books for school exclusion

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

Children’s publisher Scholastic has denied allegations that they have offered schools a “bigot button” that allows them to exclude books that feature race and/or LGBTQ+ issues.

The multinational corporation has been accused of bending to pressure from the right wing and giving US schools the option to keep books about people of colour and LGBTQ+ people out of their book fairs.

According to Popular Information, one librarian described it as giving schools a “bigot button” that they can press to erase stories about minority groups.

Librarian putting books away
School librarians have expressed their shock at Scholastic’s offer to exclude certain titles from their book fair. (Pexels)

 The online publication alleged that Scholastic had grouped these books into a collection called “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice.”

Although Scholastic has not provided a full list of the titles included in “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice”, photos of the collection have been posted by school librarians.

According to these photos, books in the collection include Justice Ketanji, a short biography about Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; Alma and How She Got Her Name, a story about the origin of one Latina girl’s name; All Are Welcome, a book that promotes acceptance of all types of people and family types; and Picture Day, a book about a middle school picture day that includes one short passage where one girl asks another girl to a school dance.

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The publication also alleged that even schools that opt to receive the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” collection get a reminder that there is an option to exclude those titles.

Responding to these claims, Scholastic issued a statement on Saturday (14 October) to clarify a number of “misconceptions” that had been made about their book fairs.

“The biggest misconception is that Scholastic Book Fairs is putting all diverse titles into one optional case. This is not true, in any school, in any location we serve,” the statement read.

The publisher did, however, note that over 30 US states have either enacted or pending legislation that would ban certain books from schools and that those books typically engage with LGBTQ+ issues and the presence of racism in the US.

This, Scholastic has said, leaves them in an “almost impossible dilemma”; either “back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted.”

Because, the publisher says, they “cannot make a decision for [their] school partners around what risks they are willing to take, based on the state and local laws that apply to their district”, the collection “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” was created to help individual elementary schools make the right decisions for them.

Library books
The publisher did note that over 30 US states have either enacted or pending legislation that would ban certain books from schools. (Getty)

“We don’t pretend this solution is perfect,” the statement continued, “but the other option would be to not offer these books at all – which is not something we’d consider.

“There is a wide range of diverse titles throughout every book fair, for every age level. And, we continue to offer diverse books throughout our middle school fairs, which remain unchanged. 

“All children need to see themselves in stories and it is extremely unsettling to consider a world in which they don’t. Scholastic’s commitment remains unshakeable to publish and distribute stories representative of ALL voices.” 

Scholastic has a history of standing up for marginalised communities.

In 2020, the publisher’s former CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement that the company “unequivocally” supported and believed in the trans community, and their right to “live free of prejudice and intolerance”,  which they acknowledged through the books and materials [they] publish.”

The company issued a similar statement that year condemning racial discrimination and renewing its commitment to work toward a “more just and equitable world for students and families” in a world “that needs boldness, compassion, and inclusion now more than ever.”