WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHTM) — Book banning in schools and libraries is back in the spotlight in Washington Thursday afternoon and four Pennsylvanians were invited to testify in front of members of Congress.

Of those four, three are from the Midstate, and two are high school students at Central York — Christina Ellis and Olivia Pituch. Their attendance is not a coincidence after Central York School District got national attention last year after implementing and then rescinding what opponents called a book ban.

“When this list was pushed out as a banned book list, I was appalled. Central, being the second most diverse district in the county, prided itself on diversity,” Pituch said during the hearing.

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The hearing focused on recent efforts across the country to ban books. It is called “Free speech under attack: Book bans and academic censorship.”

In 2021, the American Library Association recorded 729 challenges to remove nearly 1,600 books from schools and libraries. That is the highest number of attempted book bans in 20 years.

The books being challenged or banned include those that discuss race or racism and address LGBTQ issues.

Prior to the hearing, Ellis talked to abc27 on why she looked forward to testifying.

“These books that promote diversity are important because without a diverse community, without being aware of these things, how do we expect ourselves to continue to grow and be at peace with each other when we can’t even understand each other’s differences and respect each other,” Ellis said.

During her time testifying on Thursday morning, she said, “The reason why I stood against my school textbook ban was because I didn’t want future African-American kids to go through some of the things I went through growing up because of the lack of cultural sensitivity in my schooling experience.”

A Lancaster County librarian was at the hearing, as well. She says there has been an unprecedented number of book bans over the last year.

“Administrators have made hasty decisions. school board members have jumped to conclusions based on out-of-context excerpts and librarians scramble to play catch up to fight for our students’ rights,” said Samantha Hull, librarian and director of Pennsylvania Schools Librarians Association.

Democratic lawmakers organized the hearing that began at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C. There are Republicans and others who disagree, who say the real problem is the presence of what they consider inappropriate books and other materials in schools. They call for more control over that.