Pennsylvania School District Allegedly Banned “Girls Who Code” Books

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Sep. 27 2022, Published 3:13 p.m. ET

Amid the larger controversy around literary censorship in schools, people are specifically wondering why Girls Who Code books would be banned.

Girls Who Code, an organization supporting female representation in computer science, collaborated with Penguin Random House on a series of middle-grade books centering on girls forming friendships while coding.

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But PEN America, a nonprofit devoted to protecting free expression, recently reported that Central York School District in Pennsylvania had banned all four books in the series: The Friendship Code; Team BFF: Race to the Finish!; Lights, Music, Code!; and Spotlight on Coding Club.

The Girls Who Code books are among more than 400 books the Central York School District has banned, according to PEN America.

Cover of 'Team BFF: Race to the Finish!'
Source: Penguin Random House

Cover of 'Team BFF: Race to the Finish!'

PEN America listed the four Girls Who Code book in its latest Index of School Book Bans, which “instances where students’ access to books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States was restricted or diminished for either limited or indefinite periods of time, from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.”

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According to that index, all four Girls Who Code books were banned in classrooms in the Central York School District. The index also reports that same school district had banned more than 400 books.

According to Insider, a spokesperson for the Central York School District said that the ban had been in effect for 10 months before getting reversed in September 2021.

Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani said she was “shocked” by what she called “a direct attack on the movement.”

Speaking to Insider, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani said that she was “just shocked” to hear reports of the ban. “This is about controlling women, and it starts with controlling our girls and what info they have access to,” she said.

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Reshma went on: “We use these stories to teach kids to code. It felt very much like a direct attack on the movement we’ve been building to get girls coding. … You cannot be what you cannot see. They don’t want girls to learn how to code because that’s a way to be economically secure.”

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The school board, however, claims the Girls Who Code book series hadn't been banned.

Officials from the Central York School District responded to the controversy on Monday, Sept. 26, saying in a statement that the Insider article had “categorically false” information and claiming that the Girls Who Code books “[have] not been banned, and they remain available in our libraries,” according to The Guardian.

A representative from the school district told Newsweek that the Girls Who Code series “was included in a Diversity Resource List, along with approximately 200 other resources, that was removed from the Central York School District in November of 2020.”

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The rep added: “The Girls Who Code series remained in circulation from November 2020 to September 2021 when the Diversity Resource List was reinstated by the Central York School District Board of Directors.”

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In a September 2021 statement about the decision to pull the list of diversity resources, Jane Johnson, the Central York school board president at the time, said, “What we are attempting to do is balance legitimate academic freedom with what could be literature/materials that are too activist in nature, and may lean more toward indoctrination rather than age-appropriate academic content.”

After the release of the latest Index of School Book Bans, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel pointed Newsweek to its online tip sheet about fighting book banks. “We want students to recognize they have a stake in fighting for their rights under the Constitution and the freedom to read,” she told the magazine.

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