Buxton School District Council votes against removing book from library

The board of trustees of one of Maine’s largest school districts has rejected an appeal from parents seeking to have School Administrative District 6 remove a controversial book on gender and sexuality from the shelves of the Bonny High School library. Eagle at Buxton.

The board voted 8-2 Monday night to allow Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” to remain in circulation at the high school library. Council member Donald Marean of Hollis was not present and did not vote.

School districts in Maine have discussed whether “Gender Queer: A Memoir” should remain on library shelves after some parents called for its removal. Associated Press

Standish board member Erica Kreutz, who voted to keep the book on the library shelves, read the book and said it was an “insightful and thoughtful look at life of a person struggling with their gender identity. Kreutz said she could understand how some people might find the book shocking, but she said she felt the illustrations weren’t meant to engage readers, but to inform them of the author’s journey.

Council members Nathan Carlow of Buxton, who is chairman, and Julie Anderson of Limington, voted in the minority. Despite his vote, Carlow said he supported keeping the book in circulation and suggested making a motion for the school administration to investigate the possibility of supplementing the book with other reading materials. A motion was put forward but was later withdrawn.

Carlow also expressed concern about threats and harassment against district staff and teachers allegedly made on social media by critics of the book.

“It’s not who we are and it’s not what we want to teach our children,” he said.

Anderson read the book and said that the “hyper-sexualization” of the book’s content “is overdone”.

“Do we want to put our stamp on an obscene book? Anderson asked.

Monday’s decision, which came after a 90-minute public comment session, effectively rejected an effort by parents to have the book removed from the high school library and follows the board’s 10-1 decision two years ago. weeks to allow “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris to remain on the shelves of the library at Bonny Eagle Middle School.

Both books deal with gender identity and sexuality, topics that have troubled parents in school districts across the country. “Gender Queer: A Memoir” tops the American Library Association’s list of books that were challenged in 2021 in school districts across the country.

Twenty-eight people gave their opinion at Monday evening’s meeting, of which 15 spoke in favor of keeping the book in the library and 13 in favor of removing “Gender Queer”.

Denise Turner of Limington said she had read the book and found it contained illustrations that bordered on being adult material.

“If ‘Gender Queer’ was a movie, it would be rated R,” she said.

“Somehow we went from a book in our library to allegations that we teach pornography,” said Jess Webber, a high school teacher. She called the effort to have the book taken down as “hysteria”.

Earlier this year, parents of students in the district filed an appeal after the district’s materials review committee determined that the books were timely and relevant and did not glorify or promote a certain type of lifestyle. Some parents argue that the books contain pornographic images and details and should not be accessible to students. None of the books are part of an SAD 6 curriculum or assigned to a student in a district class.

Board members spent more than an hour last month listening to opinions on both sides of the issue. After the hearing, Bonny Eagle Schools Superintendent Clay Gleason told council members he would make copies of “Gender Queer” available to everyone before Monday’s meeting.

Opponents claim the book is pornographic and contains vivid descriptions of sex acts that high school students should not be exposed to. They claim the book has no place in a taxpayer-funded school library. MSAD 6 serves families in Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island.

Thirty people signed the letter appealing the material review board’s decision on “Gender Queer,” citing a discussion of masturbation and sexual fantasies, the author’s gender dysphoria, neutral pronouns, and portrayal of a person taking testosterone. The letter does not use Kobabe’s pronouns and calls the memoir “a tragic story.”

“Are there any children in the MSAD6 district who struggle with (gender dysphoria)? Probably, but probably not many,” the letter reads. parents.”

Supporters have defended the book, saying it offers insight and hope for young people struggling with their sexual identity. They also said the district should not allow a small group of parents who want the book removed to impose their views on the rest of the district.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a 2019 graphic novel, chronicles the author’s personal journey from childhood to adulthood, through gender dysphoria, teenage crushes, and personal discovery. Kobabe eventually comes across as non-binary and asexual, and adopts the gender-neutral pronouns e, em, and eir.

“As I considered a pronoun change, I started thinking about gender less as a ladder and more as a landscape,” Kobabe writes. “Some were born in the mountains, others by the sea. Some people are happy where they were born, while others must take a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest, that’s where I want to make my home.

The Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, awarded “Gender Queer” a 2020 Alex Award for Teenage Readers as a book particularly engaging for readers ages 12 to 18.

“Kobabe’s journey to understanding their gender and sexuality is showcased in this graphic memoir, expressively illustrated with retro colors and simple lines,” the award description said. “Readers will recognize a kindred spirit in Kobabe and/or get a glimpse of what it’s like to identify outside of the cisgender/heterosexual ‘norm.’ ”

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