The Book Stays at North Hunterdon High

We were proud to stand with North Hunterdon Students and parents to help them fight against censorship!

In a significant victory for free speech and academic freedom, the North Hunterdon-Voorhees School District in New Jersey voted to retain the book "Let's Talk About It" in their high school library. 

The school board's 7-4 vote on May 7 to keep the book on the shelves marked the culmination of an intense period of public meetings. "Let's Talk About It," an illustrated guide to sex education, has been a lightning rod for controversy, particularly among so-called parental rights advocates who argued the book contains obscene material. '


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EveryLibrary has stood alongside Martha Hickson, the school librarian, and the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Intellectual Freedom Fighters (NHV-IFF) since the beginning of a series of challenges to books about gender, gender identity, and sexuality began in 2022. Our most recent petition to the school board on our anti-censorship platform, Fight for the First, emphasized the book's positive reviews and the valuable information it provides related to sexual health and safety. Over a thousand local residents, parents, and educational stakeholders have been activated by our campaigns to support academic freedom and the school library. 

These fights between concerned parents and professional educators and school librarians drain resources at schools. School Board President Glen Farbanish commented, "We burn a huge amount of oxygen, in this room, on this topic. I’m getting to the point where I’m upset that we’re not talking about our kids’ grades or our kids’ mental health. I’m upset we’re not talking about if our kids are getting into [college] or if our kids are prepared for a trade coming out of school, like law enforcement."


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When books are targeted based on inclusivity and diversity, students are harmed. Student board representative Jude Gepp also spoke in favor of keeping the book, highlighting its positive impact on students. "I’ve had a lot of students who read the book tell me it was impactful," Gepp said. "The book as a whole educated them about consent and safety, causing a lot of students to realize their consent and safety had been violated in the past. This prompted those students to speak to their parents about it, which helped them find closure."

Martha Hickson, the librarian at North Hunterdon-Voorhees who refused to pull the book from circulation, has faced considerable online bullying and personal attacks but was vindicated by the board's decision. In a recent interview with PBS, Hickson discussed the ongoing challenges she faces. "We've been dealing with the issue of attacks on books and attacks on me as the librarian since 2021," she said. Instead of constructive conversations about students’ well-being, there have been outbursts at board meetings and personal attacks on librarians. "My life outside of work is now devoted solely to this—solely to marshaling resources, gaining support, and protecting the right to read and also my personal safety," she shared. (Hickson has recently joined the board of the EveryLibrary Institute, our non-profit public policy think tank.) 

The North Hunterdon-Voorhees School District's vote to oppose censorship shows how school boards who center students in their decisions and listen to educators, school librarians, and the wider community make better decisions about access and reading. Their vote to retain this book gives us hope that other school districts facing similar challenges will be able to make the right decision, too.