3rd-grade teacher shares how Tennessee ‘book ban’ law keeps her students from reading books in class

A frustrated third grade teacher revealed why she had to come to school on a Saturday – and why her students can’t read books in class – and parents are left in complete disbelief.

Teacher and mom Sydney Rawls went viral last month when she shared the impact a new Tennessee law would have on her classroom — and on her personal time. Since then, the video has racked up over 2.3 million views and 13,000 angry comments.

The law, dubbed the Age-Appropriate Materials Act, requires public schools to “post a list of the materials in their libraries online” for parents to review.

But according to Rawls’ now-viral video, the process is far more complicated than that — so much so that teachers have to work unpaid hours so their students can read books in the classroom.

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In her video, Rawls breaks down the complicated approval process required by this new law.

First, teachers must catalog the title and author of every single book currently in their class library — of which some teachers have hundreds, if not thousands.

This catalog is then passed to the school librarian, who compares this list to a list of approved books. The librarian then tells the teacher which of their books is not on the approved list.

The teacher must then go through his library again and remove those books. In the meantime, a list of those removed books will be sent to “someone higher up,” says Rawls — “probably someone who’s never been in a classroom, who’s never taught kids.”

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These “higher authorities” then review the list and determine whether those books are “appropriate or not.” They then send this feedback back to the school – and ask the teacher to search their library again.

After that, teachers are required to post the final list of books in their library online for parental review, giving them an opportunity to “involve” about the books in their classroom.

Until all these steps are complete, the children in Rawls’ classroom are not allowed to read any of her books, no matter how much they beg.

“Sad times for a teacher,” reads a comment on Rawls’ video.

“And people are wondering why the teachers are leaving in droves,” reads another comment.

“Every day the school system is less and less a place for children/teachers to thrive. I’m so sorry you have to do this,” one user commented.

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“I pay for these books…”

Unfortunately, Tennessee isn’t the only state hitting its overworked and underpaid teachers with book bans and censorship.

In Oklahoma, a teacher recently quit after being forced to either wrap problem books, turn them spines-side-inward, or cover them with butcher paper.

Summer Boismier, a high school English teacher, decided to challenge an Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender in the classroom.

After Boismier covered her books as she was instructed, she captioned each book, “Books the State Doesn’t Want You to Read.”

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Leveraging Books Unbanned, a Brooklyn Public Library initiative, Boismier also placed a QR code on each covered book—along with the text “Don’t scan under any circumstances!”

Once the code is scanned by students, they could receive a free e-library card giving them access to BPL’s e-book collection – allowing them to bypass government censorship and give them the freedom to use any book to read of their choice.

As Boismier told CNN, teachers are often forced to personally stock and fund their classroom libraries — which is deducted from their already meager paychecks.

“I pay for these books. I put books on my shelves that I think would not only appeal to students, but would also spotlight stories that have traditionally been left out of the official ELA [English Language Arts] curriculum,” Boismier told CNN.

Unfortunately, book bans and censorship aren’t the only trials diligent teachers face. Now even their classroom decor is under scrutiny – and politically armed.

A recent tweet went viral questioning a teacher’s rainbow heart wall decal, along with a corkboard illustration that read, “Our class is a family.”

The tweet shed light on kindergarten teacher Rhonda Ulichney, who was accused of “indoctrinating children” with her colorful and welcoming classroom decor.

A Reddit thread that responded to the tweet received over 8,000 confused and angry comments.

“Children’s things are covered in rainbows all the time… In kindergarten, children literally learn their colors. This guy is crazy,” read one comment.

“The attack on teachers is pretty scary… Nurses are next,” wrote another Redditor.

“Oh no! The kids will be exposed to…kindness?” wrote one user.

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The shortage of teachers in the USA has reached crisis levels

Given all that teachers are currently struggling with, it’s no wonder America is currently facing a catastrophic teacher shortage.

“Rural Texas school districts are transitioning to four-day weeks this fall due to staffing shortages. Florida is asking veterans with no educational background to enter classrooms. Arizona allows college students to step in and educate children,” the Washington Post reported in August of this year.

There are several ways parents and school administrators can stand up for the teachers who continue to overcome various challenges in the classroom, despite the psychological toll it could put on them. Attending school board meetings, joining the PTA, or simply asking teachers what they need are all ways parents can help.

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