A book with passages blacked out for censorship

Book Banners Reach New Low, Censoring Girl Scout Project That Fought Censorship

Book banners in Hanover County have reached a new low, as its Board of Supervisors chose to censor a Girl Scout project created to fight censorship, which the county was supposed to be honoring.

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Book-banning efforts have been picking up across the country over the past four years, led by right-wing extremists seeking to censor any book that doesn’t meet their agenda. The movement has hit Virginia particularly hard, especially in Hanover County, where the School Board passed a controversial book-banning policy in June of 2023. Initially, libraries and schools adhered to a simple five-point policy regarding which books entered the schools. However, the School Board decided to replace the policy with a complicated and restrictive 10-page-long list of requirements books had to meet to be allowed in schools.

Despite criticism for increasing the workload of librarians and giving the School Board the right to dictate library materials, the policy passed. It made challenging books easier for Hanover County residents and demanded the removal of any books found to be “vulgar,” “sexually explicit,” or “not age appropriate,” though it failed to define any of these vague terms. Immediately after taking effect, the policy was used to remove 19 books from school shelves. Soon, school administrators and parents came forward with demands to remove another 75 books, which Hanover County agreed to. The removal of nearly 100 books from the school district in just several months inspired one Girl Scout to take action.

Hanover Girl Scout faces censorship after fighting book bans

Hanover Girl Scout Kate Lindley decided to take a stand against book banning after the School Board’s policy passed. She began working with fellow students, Girl Scout troop leaders, local librarians, and teachers to develop her Free to Read idea. Free to Read is an initiative that creates banned book nooks inside Hanover businesses. The nooks contain books from the long list of titles banned by the Hanover School Board, thus, allowing students in the area to access these books for free. She established her nooks in two Hanover businesses: a donut shop and a printing service company. The local bookstore BBGB Books also opened a nook to support her cause.

In addition to her nooks, Lindley coded the “Free to Read” app, which was filled with information on book bans and their negative impact. Her Free to Read initiative also qualified as her Gold Award project, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout can obtain. On April 10, the Hanover Board of Supervisors was to honor Lindley and several other Girl Scouts for achieving the prestigious Gold Awards. However, the Board then decided to censor her project.

Each girl was to receive a proclamation to recognize their projects. Lindley’s original proclamation would’ve told the full story of her unique project to fight book bans, as well as detailed the School Board’s decisions that inspired her project. Then, of all the Girl Scout proclamations, Cold Harbor District Supervisor Michael Herzberg decided to change only Lindley’s. The revision stripped the proclamation of any mention of book banning and censorship, including a line that explicitly referenced Hanover County Public School libraries’ book bans. Herzberg’s unnecessary changes were approved almost unanimously by the Board.

Essentially, the proclamation censored Lindley’s project, erasing information that was vital to establishing context and the project’s significance. The irony wasn’t lost on Lindley, who told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “It’s kind of hilarious. For me, it’s very ironic that they decided to censor my project that’s meant to fight censorship.” In response to the paper’s inquiry, Herzberg sent an e-mail stating stating:

Board proclamations are issued with a vote by the Board. Some books that contain porn and sexually explicit content were de-selected from Hanover Public Schools and I support that action. Books with porn and sexually explicit content do not have my support for a Board proclamation.

Herzberg allowed his own thoughts on book banning to distort Lindley’s proclamation for no reason. The proclamation was about her thoughts on the School Board’s book ban and how she was putting books in the hands of students who needed them most. It shouldn’t have had anything to do with Herzberg’s false claims that every book he personally dislikes is porn. Lindley told RadioIQ she would still accept the honor the Board offered, as it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime award. Only about 5.4% of Girl Scouts become eligible to earn the prestigious honor.

However, because a bunch of book banners can’t resist censoring anything that they don’t personally agree with, the full scope and significance of Lindley’s project was cruelly erased in her official proclamation.

(featured image: gopixa / Getty)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.