US President Joe Biden has named a government coordinator to handle the thorny issue of book bans in schools -- one of a series of initiatives announced Thursday by the White House to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month.
"Across the country, our nation faces a spike in book bans -- efforts that disproportionately strip books about LGBTQI+ communities, communities of color, and other communities off of library and classroom shelves," the White House said.
"In fact, 2022 saw the highest number of book bans in 20 years."
The new coordinator, under the auspices of the Department of Education's office of civil rights, will be tasked with providing new training for schools on how book bans can create a "hostile" environment for students -- and possibly violate federal laws.
"Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning, and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that LGBTQI+ people and other communities face," the White House said.
Book bans have moved front and center in the so-called "culture wars" in the United States, reflecting deep societal divisions about race, gender and sexuality.
Some US states, many of them led by conservative governors, have removed scores of books from library shelves, claiming they promote homosexuality or are too shocking.
Classics such as works by Nobel-winning writer Toni Morrison and Art Spiegelman's graphic novel about the Holocaust, "Maus," have been targeted.
Other initiatives announced by the White House on Thursday to coincide with Pride Month will help support homeless members of the LGBTQ community, as well as youths in foster care.
The US government will also put in place new safety training classes for LGBTQ community organizations, including small business and Pride festivals, as well as provide them with regular briefings on threats.
The White House was meant to host an outdoor Pride event on Thursday but was forced to postpone it until Saturday due to the toxic air quality in the US capital, sparked by wildfires in Canada.
© Agence France-Presse
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