Oklahoma Group Claims 'Scholastic' Book Fairs Are Indoctrinating Kids With 'Radical Viewpoints,' 'Sexual Ideologies'

State Superintendent Ryan Walters responded to a letter from the Tulsa chapter of Mom’s for Liberty which called for an end to Scholastic Book Fairs in the state over "controversial" subjects.

Wednesday, November 15th 2023, 11:20 am

By: David Prock, News On 6

The Tulsa chapter of Moms for Liberty is calling for an end to Scholastic Book Fairs in the state of Oklahoma.

The group claims that the publishing company is "indoctrinating" kids with "radical viewpoints and sexual ideologies" through Book Fairs. When asked about the letter from Moms For Liberty State Superintendent Ryan Walters said that he was interested and looking into the issue.

Tulsa Moms For Liberty Calls For End To Scholastic Book Fairs

"It has become undeniable that a regularly occurring conduit for inappropriate books into schools across Oklahoma is through Scholastic, particularly through their book fairs. As we are in the thick of the fall book fair season, far too many books that are in direct violation of the rules and laws put forth by Oklahoma Legislation are appearing at these fairs across the state. Scholastic, a once trusted company that happens to be one of the top publishers of children's books, now appears largely focused on indoctrinating youth with radical viewpoints and sexual ideologies from a very young age at an increasingly rapid rate.
Moms for Liberty Oklahoma strongly encourages all parents to pay extremely close attention to the materials advertised and displayed by Scholastic inside their children's schools. It is a parent's right to visit the library and the book fair at their child's school and to oversee what they may be exposed to during the school day. We also implore Media Specialists and Administrators to be on the lookout for these inappropriate materials making their way in. Furthermore, Oklahoma Legislators must hold their districts accountable to the laws that have been set forth specifically to protect our youth.
We condemn the current nature of the business that Scholastic is exhibiting and look forward to alternative publishers and book fair companies embracing materials dedicated to building the academia, character, and morality of our youth while respecting the values and traditions of parents. Moms for Liberty Oklahoma vehemently opposes Scholastic remaining a vendor to our schools across the state. This organization has taken a strong stance on its ideological beliefs and they in no way align with Oklahoma values. We encourage school board members to look further into finding an alternative for their districts and implementing a replacement as soon as possible. Let's continue helping students, teachers, families, and school districts to thrive by eliminating a direct source of these issues that also become a constant drain of valuable time and energy. Children deserve more literary options that are healthy, educational, and positive and there are far better ways to achieve this."

State Superintendent Ryan Walters Says State Will Investigate Scholastic Book Fairs

State Superintendent Ryan Walters responded to a letter sent by the chapter during an interview on Tuesday by saying that his office has received similar complaints from parents across the state and says the Oklahoma Department of Education will investigate.

"It's inappropriate, and frankly, that type of left-wing ideology in the classroom will continue to downgrade our test scores. It will continue to undermine the learning process. We want high academic standards and we want to focus back on the basics," said Walters.

Scholastic's Policy On Story Diversity And Controversy

In contrast to the complaint from Moms for Liberty, during much of 2023, Scholastic was accused by some authors and illustrators of self-censoring their book selections to appease states with legislation prohibiting, mostly racially conscious and LGBTQ+ titles. In October, Scholastic published a letter saying that they were trying to work within the changing legislation to provide a diverse range of titles, making sure that schools, librarians, and teachers knew what materials were included.

Scholastic had been isolating titles that various state laws might deem as "controversial" and placed them in a special collection titled "Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice." Scholastic would then work with individual schools to make sure they knew the titles in the collection and could plan accordingly.

Some authors said they understood and appreciated the desire to protect librarians and teachers from potential lawsuits or firings, but did not think the solution was the right way to go.

After continued conversations with authors and publishers, Scholastic decided to discontinue the collection starting January 2024. President Ellie Berger said they would work toward a better solution, and apologized for the decision. See that full letter below.

Scholastic has not responded to these specific accusations in Oklahoma.

"Dear Authors and Illustrators,
I want to update you regarding the Book Fairs Share Every Story/Celebrate Every Voice case.
First, I want to apologize on behalf of Scholastic. Even if the decision was made with good intention, we understand now that it was a mistake to segregate diverse books in an elective case. We sincerely apologize to every author,
illustrator, licensor, educator, librarian, parent, and reader who was hurt by our action. We recognize and acknowledge the pain caused, and that we have broken the trust of some of our publishing community, customers, friends, trusted partners, and staff, and we also recognize that we will now need to regain that trust.
This case will be discontinued starting with our next season in January. For the remaining fairs in the fall, Book Fairs is working on a pivot plan as we speak. We will find an alternate way to get a greater range of books into the hands of children. We remain committed to the books in this collection and support their sale throughout our distribution channels.
Our commitment to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors and stories remains foundational for our company. Scholastic believes in the basic freedoms of all individuals. We oppose discrimination of any kind on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or national origin. We are committed to providing access and choice, and to helping young readers develop critical skills needed to exercise democracy and build a society free of prejudice and hate. Equally important, we pledge to stand with you as we redouble our efforts to combat the laws restricting children's access to books. This will not be our last communication on the matter, but we wanted to get this initial word out. We look forward to working to create a better and more just future together."
Ellie Berger
Scholastic Trade Publishing