On Friday (May 19), the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights publicly released its findings in a letter concluding an investigation into Forsyth County Schools. In 2022, the Georgia district made the decision to remove almost a dozen books in response to parent complaints—and these books featured Black and LGBTQ characters.
The federal government believes the removal of these books may have led to a “hostile environment” and could have violated students’ civil rights. The district has agreed to provide “supportive measures” to students who were affected by the book removals.
In a statement Monday, Forsyth schools spokesperson Jennifer Caracciolo explained that the district’s “implementation of the [department’s] recommendations … will further our mission to provide an unparalleled education for all to succeed.”
Caracciolo also said that the district was first contacted by the Education Department in March. The complaint stated that the January 2022 removal of books led to a “racially and sexually hostile environment for students.” However, who filed the complaint and the exact date it was filed remains unknown.
The Department’s investigation involved a thorough evaluation of school documents, interviews with school personnel and an examination of public board meeting records. The findings explain that “communications at board meetings conveyed the impression that books were being screened to exclude diverse authors and characters, including people who are [LGBTQ] and authors who are not white.”
The district is now required to conduct a school climate survey as well as explain to all middle and high school students why the books were removed in the first place. The statement must cite the fact that books were not eliminated due to the sex, gender, race or sexual orientation of their characters. It also must mention “an acknowledgement that the environment surrounding removal of books may have impacted students.”
In addition, the statement will inform students how to file harassment and discrimination complaints under federal law. The district will also agree to take “appropriate action” in dealing with these issues. The statement is due for submission to the Education Department on July 31.