Censorship in public schools is not a trend that emerged over the last few years – in fact, during the 90s, the number of proposed bans in US schools was higher than in the following decades. However, a good reason for that could be a rise in organized groups formed to oppose book banning nationwide.
Using the available data, we compiled this report that shows an in-depth breakdown of the history and current state of book banning in schools. We’ll also go through the list of the most banned books in schools over the last year.
Banned books in schools in 2022
In the 2021/22 school year, there was a concerning increase in the amount of proposed and successful book bans originating in schools in the US. Most of these banning efforts involve multiple books and authors across 32 states.
- During the 2021/22 school year, there have been 182 recorded attempts to ban books in US schools containing 2,352 titles in total, of which 1,648 are unique.
- 1,157 titles are already officially banned in schools, while 1,375 are pending investigation.
- 333 titles are banned in both school libraries and classrooms, 487 are banned in libraries only, and 337 are banned in classrooms only.
In the following sections, we’ll look at the most frequently banned books and authors, as well as states and school districts where the most ban proposals occurred. We’ll also show where the bans take place and show seasonality in the number of bans.
Most banned books in schools (2022)
- In the 2021/22 school year, official efforts to ban books included the list of 1,648 different titles across 32 states and 138 districts.
- 345 out of 1,648 titles have been subjected to multiple ban attempts.
- The most frequently banned title in US schools for 2022 was Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, a target of banning attempts on 41 separate occasions.
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson was the second most frequently banned book in US schools, with 29 instances of ban attempts.
- Ashley Hope Perez’s book Out of Darkness appeared on 24 different ban lists, ranking no3 on the most banned books list in schools for 2021/22.
- 18 more titles had a double-digit number of proposed bans across the country.
Below is the list of the most frequently banned books in US schools for 2022.
|Title||Author||Confirmed bans||Pending bans||Total ban proposals|
|Gender Queer: A Memoir||Kobabe, Maia||24||17||41|
|All Boys Aren’t Blue||Johnson, George M.||15||14||29|
|Out of Darkness||Perez, Ashley Hope||14||10||24|
|The Bluest Eye||Morrison, Toni||12||10||22|
|Lawn Boy||Evison, Jonathan||7||10||17|
|The Hate U Give||Thomas, Angie||7||10||17|
|The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian||Alexie, Sherman||9||7||16|
|Me and Earl and the Dying Girl||Andrews, Jesse||8||6||14|
|Thirteen Reasons Why||Asher, Jay||7||5||12|
|Crank (Crank Series)||Hopkins, Ellen||9||3||12|
|The Kite Runner||Hosseini, Khaled||6||6||12|
|l8r, g8r||Myracle, Lauren||8||4||12|
|This Book Is Gay||Dawson, Juno||7||4||11|
|Melissa (George)||Gino, Alex||6||5||11|
|Looking for Alaska||Green, John||7||4||11|
|Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out||Kuklin, Susan||3||8||11|
|This One Summer||Tamaki, Mariko||4||7||11|
|Drama: A Graphic Novel||Telgemeier, Raina||6||5||11|
|Jack of Hearts (and other parts)||Rosen, L. C.||6||4||10|
Most banned authors in US schools (2022)
- In total, 1,149 authors have been subject to banning attempts in 2022, 384 of which have been subject to multiple banning attempts.
- 226 authors had more than one title challenged, and 9 had more than 10 titles banned in 2022.
- Toni Morrison’s books have been subject to 34 ban attempts in 2022, with 19 already accepted and in place.
- With 43 different cases of proposed bans, Ellen Hopkins was the most banned author in US schools in 2022. Out of that, 28 proposals are already in power, while there’s a pending investigation for the other 15 cases.
- Maia Kobabe is the second-most banned author in US schools with 41 ban proposals, 24 of whom are already confirmed.
|Name||Confirmed bans||Pending bans||Total ban proposals|
|George M. Johnson||15||15||30|
|Ashley Hope Pérez||13||10||23|
|Sarah J. Maas||9||9||18|
|Shaun David Hutchinson||6||9||15|
States that ban the most books
- In total, 32 states have at least one ban initiative started in the 2021/22 school year, 23 of which have multiple book-banning efforts registered.
- Texas is the state with the most recorded book-banning efforts in schools with 801 titles banned or currently in the process of a ban.
- Floride has 566 titles proposed for banning, 200 of which are officially confirmed and in power.
- Pennsylvania’s school book bans account for 458 different titles, with 449 already accepted.
- 349 titles have been proposed for banning in Tennessee during the 2021/22 school year, completing the list of states with more than 100 title ban proposals.
Below is the list of US states with confirmed book banning proposals in public schools during the 2021/22 school year.
|State||Confirmed bans||Pending bans||Total ban proposals|
- 138 school districts in 32 states were subject to book-banning attempts in the US, 82 of which contain multiple titles challenged.
- Texas is the state with the most school districts included in banning efforts, as 22 districts from this state banned at least one title. Florida has 21 districts included in school book banning.
- Central York School District in Pennsylvania was a location of ban proposals for 441 different titles, the most among any school district in the US for the 2021/22 school year. All 441 are officially banned.
- North East Independent School District in Texas was subject to banning 435 titles in 2022, 122 of which are officially confirmed.
- Collierville Schools district from Tennessee is involved in the ban of 327 titles, and Duval County Public Schools (Florida), Indian River County School District (Florida), and Granbury Independent School District (Texas) complete the list of districts that banned over 100 different books in 2022.
Below is the list of school districts with the most titles banned or challenged during the 2021/22 school year.
|School district||State||Confirmed bans||Pending bans||Total ban proposals|
|Central York School District||Pennsylvania||441||0||441|
|North East Independent School District||Texas||122||313||435|
|Duval County Public Schools||Florida||0||176||176|
|Indian River County School District||Florida||105||56||161|
|Granbury Independent School District||Texas||8||125||133|
|Walton County School District||Florida||0||58||58|
|Katy Independent School District||Texas||35||10||45|
|Fredericksburg Independent School District||Texas||10||32||42|
|Brevard Public Schools||Florida||1||41||42|
When are school book bans occurring?
Looking at the official dates of book-banning proposals, we notice a seasonality in terms of the quantity of challenged titles over the year. Winter months are devastating for books as ban efforts skyrocket during winter, while things tend to be more calm around spring and summer.
- Out of 2,532 instances of book-banning efforts, 513 occurred during December 2021, accounting for 20.2% of all banned titles in US schools.
- 405 titles were banned in January (16%) and 357 in February (14.1%). This means that 3 winter months accounted for 50.35% of all school book bans during the 2021/22 school year.
- August of 2021 was the second-highest book-banning month overall, as 443 titles were proposed for banning (17.5%).
|Month of challenge||Confirmed bans||Pending bans||Total ban proposals||Share|
School book banning by year
Over the last few decades, the amount of book-banning efforts originating in US schools shifted from being the dominant source of bans in the 90s and the 00s, dropping to only 39% of all challenges in 2019 and then making another jump over the last couple of years:
- There were 131 challenges involving book banning in schools across the United States during 2022, a 3.05% drop compared to 2021.
- In 2021, there were 131 unique book challenges occurring in US schools, which was a 122% increase compared to the pandemic-affected 2020.
- In addition to banning attempts coming from schools, 321 challenges came from US school libraries in 2021.
- Prior to 2020, the number of school book challenges was declining in 4 out of the last 5 years, hitting a historical low of 45 challenges in 2019.
- From 2000 to 2009, the average annual number of book-banning attempts in US schools was 181, while the average during the 90s was as big as 202 challenges per year.
- During 2022, book-banning challenges occurring in US schools accounted for 10% of all challenges in the US for the year, a 44% drop over 2021.
- Even though the number of challenges in 2021 more than doubled over 2020, the share of book challenges in total declined from 38% in 2020 to 18% in 2021.
- An additional 44% of all challenges in 2021 originated from school libraries.
- In 2019, only 12% of all book challenges occurred in US schools, the least over the past 30 years.
- Most of the 21st century school ban challenges accounted for less than a third of all challenges during the year.
- During the 90s, schools accounted for over 56.7% of all challenges.
|Year||Share of school challenges (in total)||Change|
Who initiates book bans in schools?
- Most of the book-banning attempts in US schools come from parents. Parents were responsible for 30% of all efforts to ban books from US schools and libraries.
- School boards are deserving of 15% of all school book challenges as of 2022, while teachers account for 3% of all banning attempts.
- In 2020, half of all book challenges came from parents.
- Overall, 63% of book-banning efforts originate in US schools in 2021, the most since the 90s.
|Year||Parent challenges||School board challenges||Teacher challenges||Others|