An uproar over book bans was reignited when those behind a movement to close the gender gap in technology caught wind that the book series “Girls Who Code” popped up on a banned book list.
But the book series was not actually banned in classrooms, according to the Central York School District in Pennsylvania.
It’s true that four titles from the series appeared on a list of books banned in the 2021-2022 school year. The free expression nonprofit PEN America compiled the list and used the data to publish a report that showed specific groups were behind the book bans sweeping the nation.
PEN America researchers documented 2,532 instances of books being banned — some of which were covered in the news media, such as the controversy around “Girls Who Code” and other bans reported directly to PEN, the report published last week states.
PEN America did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the Central York School District, the series was never banned. Instead, the books were included on a list of resources that was later pulled.
The four “Girls Who Code” books — “Team BFF: Race to the Finish!” and “The Friendship Code” by Stacia Deutsch, “Spotlight on Coding Club!” by Michelle Schusterman, and “Lights, Music, Code!” by Jo Whittemore — were included in a Diversity Resource List of some 200 titles the Central York School District curated after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
The series is a spin-off of tween book series such as “The Babysitters Club” and “The Saddle Club.” It highlights the stories of girls who are into coding and their adventures with a coding club at their school, and many of the protagonists are young girls of color, according to the founder of the Girls Who Code company, Reshma Saujani.
Girls Who Code has an active chapter in the Central York School District and is offered as an after-school program, said spokesperson Nicole Montgomery.
Shortly after the school district released the Diversity Resource List in 2020, there were complaints, according to The Guardian. The school board voted to put the resource list on hold and told teachers not to use the titles for class instruction — with the exception that they could continue to use resources that were already in place before they were put on the Diversity Resource List. That included the “Girls Who Code” series.
The decision to withdraw the list that added Black voices to the curriculum dredged up national attention, and the board then voted to reinstate the list and make the resources available to teachers again in September 2021, according to The Guardian.
When PEN America published its report for Banned Books Week, Saujani told Insider she got an alert on her phone about it.
“I was just shocked,” she told Insider. “This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls and what info they have access to.”
She tweeted that she was angry and linked the book ban to Moms for Liberty, one of the groups behind banning books in schools. Rhonda Garman, chair of the York Moms for Liberty chapter, said neither the local chapter nor the national group challenged the “Girls Who Code” series.
I woke up this morning to a news alert that our @GirlsWhoCode middle-grade book series was banned by some school districts as part of the Mom for Liberty effort to ban books. To be honest, I am so angry I cannot breathe.https://t.co/5rBJkcGQDV
— reshmasaujani (@reshmasaujani) September 24, 2022
Whittemore, who wrote “Lights, Music, Code!” in the series, weighed in on Twitter as well, saying the book had been banned “because some people choose not to focus on how awesome and empowering and inspiring these books are but instead choose fear,” she wrote.
Yep. I’ve been banned. Because some people choose not to focus on how awesome and empowering and inspiring these books are but instead choose fear. https://t.co/3rwmdhPLWc
— Jo Whittemore (@JoWhittemore) September 24, 2022