FoCo students’ civil rights may have been violated by book removals, U.S. Education Department says

Justine Lookenott
The Forsyth Coalition for Education protests the removal of books from Forsyth County School librariesPhoto

(Forsyth County, GA) Forsyth County Schools has reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after an investigation into the district’s removal of certain books from school libraries throughout 2022.

The department found that the removal of the books may have violated students’ civil rights by "creating a hostile environment."

Early in 2022, eight books were removed from school libraries after several complaints by parents were made over sexually explicit material. However, the Forsyth County Board of Education returned seven of the eight books to school libraries a few months later.

During this time, several complaints were made to the Office of Civil Rights about the handling of the book removals, the investigation results were released on Friday, May 19.

However, the OCR investigation recognized that the district refused suggestions to remove books it believed would target certain groups of students. The district posted statements on school media center websites emphasizing that the district does “provide resources that reflect all students within each school community.”

Statements also addressed parents with concerns over the books, stating that “if you come across a book that does not match your family’s values and/or beliefs, and you would prefer that your child does not check that book out, please discuss it with your child.”

While the OCR found that the district’s book screening process only targeted explicit sexual material, discourse around the topic at Board of Education meetings “conveyed the impression” that the books were also being screened for non-white and LGBTQI+ authors and characters, which may have created a “hostile environment” for students.

The letter cited comments from one student at a Board of Education meeting who stated that the school environment had become “more harsh” after the controversy and he had fears about going to school. Other students had expressed the same views and reports were made to the OCR that the district had not made any attempts to address the impact the book removals had on students.

In a resolution agreement, the district agreed to resolve the concerns by doing the following:

  • “Issuing a statement to students in the District explaining the book removal process and offering supportive measures to students who may have been impacted by the book removal process”
  • “Administering a climate survey of the student bodies at each of the District’s middle and high schools to assess whether additional steps need to be taken”

The OCR will monitor the district’s compliance with these agreements until it has been decided that the district is in compliance with the resolutions.

District Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo provided the following statement in response to the investigation.

“Forsyth County Schools is committed to providing a safe, connected, and thriving community for all students and their families. With the implementation of the OCR’s recommendations, we will further our mission to provide an unparalleled education for all to succeed. Our district will continue to follow Federal and State laws, and local Board policies and procedures, for media center materials.”

The OCR investigation results letter to the district can be found here and the resolution agreement letter here.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at You can also follow her on Twitter at @justalookenott.

Correction: This article was updated to correct the date the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released the investigation findings.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA

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