“The Ed Scare” — that’s how freedom of expression advocacy organization PEN America describes the sweeping restrictions targeting classrooms across the country.

A riff on the Red Scare, the panic that spread during the Cold War over the dangers of communism, the Ed Scare underscores that public education faces multiple threats — from book bans to what PEN America calls education gag orders and educational intimidation bills. Collectively, these policies foster censorship, limit instruction about race, gender and sexuality and subject educators to extreme scrutiny while undermining their expertise.

Book banning, then, is just one part of a broad effort to chill the free exchange of ideas in K-12 schools. But it is getting worse: Public school book bans rose by 33 percent in the 2022-23 school year compared with a year earlier.

That data comes from the PEN America report, “Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor,” released for Banned Books Week, which emphasizes the importance of “free and open access to information.” With support from organizations including the American Library Association, Children’s Book Council, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Council of Teachers of English and PEN America, Banned Books Week takes place through Saturday, ending with Let Freedom Read Day.

“More kids are losing access to books, more libraries are taking authors off the shelves and opponents of free expression are pushing harder than ever to exert their power over students as a whole,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel in a statement. “Those who are bent on the suppression of stories and ideas are turning our schools into battlegrounds, compounding post-pandemic learning loss, driving teachers out of the classroom and denying the joy of reading to our kids.”

Five states — Florida, Texas, Missouri, Utah and Pennsylvania — lead the nation in book bans documented by PEN America. With 1,406 bans, the Sunshine State accounted for more than 40 percent of the 3,362 instances of book bans PEN America recorded for the 2022-23 school year. Altogether, bans over that period took aim at 1,557 unique titles and books by over 1,480 authors, illustrators and translators.

Read the full article about book bans by Nadra Nittle at The 19th.