Earlier this month I noted that the Rancocas Valley Board of Education, in New Jersey, had made a dubious decision to ban (remove from library shelves) Revolutionary Voices, an anthology by and for queer and questioning youth. What will happen next remains to be seen, but there might be more to the story.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union reports on its own website that it has made an Open Public Records request for documents relating to the board's decision. That doesn't mean they ACLU will necessarily take action against the board, but it does indicate that they're considering what action to take.
Why seek these documents? Probably because they ACLU is looking for evidence as to the motivations behind the board's decision. Court precedents, especially the 1982 Board v. Pico decision, make it clear that school boards need to have a valid pedagogical reason for removing a book that is already on a school library shelf, and cannot remove books in an attempt to enforce any kind of political orthodoxy. Were the ACLU to sue the school board over this act of censorship, the court would probably examine transcripts of board discussions, emails, memos, and the like, looking for information about what motivated the ban. The court would probably ask whether or not the district had an established procedure for handling challenges to library books, and whether or not that procedure was followed. The court would want to know if the board followed or overrode the recommendations of a review committee, if there was one. The court would try to determine whether the board members actually knew the contents of the book, what details of the contents made the book educationally unfit, and how that analysis was arrived at. Of course, any comments indicating that the board made an uninformed decision, or made their decision in order to implement political or religious objectives, could weigh heavily against the ban.
In deciding what action, if any, to take, the ACLU would be likely to evaluate those same kinds of documents in order to estimate the strength of a possible lawsuit. It would be interesting to see what documents the school board produces in response to the Open Public Records request, and what they contain. I can only speculate, but with a copy of the banned book right here in my hand, I'd say the school board made a major legal blunder. If they're smart, they'll reverse their decision before they have to divert large chunks of tax dollars to pay legal fees.