Fairfax County Public Schools to Allow Return of Two Disputed LGBTQ Books to High School Libraries

The contested books “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. Photos: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill / Oni Press.

Fairfax County Public Schools decided to return two controversial LGBTQ-themed books to high school library shelves following a review of the two books by two special committees that reviewed the texts in response to parents who asked. filed complaints to ban the books.

The two books, lawn boy, by Jonathan Evison, and Homosexual gender: a thesis, by Maia Kobabe, were removed from the shelves of high school libraries in the district after parents filed complaints alleging that the books contained sexually explicit content and were inappropriate for minors, and that they contained scenes involving sexual abuse. pedophilia.

Under a current FCPS policy, upon receiving a formal complaint about a book, two committees, made up of parents, librarians, school administrators, and students over the age of 18, were trained to determine whether the two books were suitable (as optional independent reading material, not part of any curriculum) for high school students.

After extensive discussions on the merits and concerns of the book as a literary work, and the potential merits and concerns associated with retaining or removing books from library shelves, the two committees unanimously recommended that books remain available for high school students only. Based on this recommendation, Noel Klimenko, the deputy superintendent of the FCPS Educational Services Department, decided to restore both books.

The Committees noted in their analysis that lawn boy is “an accessible examination of race, class, socio-economic struggle and gender identity.” It portrays the substantial obstacles facing those who are marginalized by society. It’s an uplifting and humanizing representation of navigating setbacks with resilience to achieve goals and it will resonate with students. “

Committee members found that the book’s themes would be affirmative for students who have experienced similar challenges or societal biases, and the book has literary value “as a narrative representing the point of view of a significant portion of the population. Fairfax County Public School students with a variety of backgrounds.

Committee members found no evidence to support the claim that the book contains pedophilia. Evison has previously said that the book features its main protagonist recalling, as an adult, a sexual experience he had at the age of ten with another ten-year-old – an experience he is ashamed of and which affects his journey towards self-acceptance. They also found that the book did not violate Virginia Code regulations against the production, possession or distribution of “obscene” or “harmful to minors” material.

“With respect to the content of the book referenced in the complaint, the description does not go” considerably beyond the usual limits of frankness in description or portrayal “, is not the” dominant theme “, and is important for the development of the main character, thus contributing to the literary value of the book, ”the committee wrote in its review.

See also: Texas Governor Denounces Controversial LGBTQ Books, Lobby to Ban “Pornography” in School Libraries

Committee members noted that Homosexual gender, a graphic novel that appears in the catalog of only seven of the district’s high schools, was a “well-written, scientifically-based account of the journey of a person with gender identity that contains information and perspective that is not. widely represented “and talks about issues that non-binary and asexual individuals may face. They found that young people who identify with homosexuals with similar or related experiences can feel assertive, while other readers can gain understanding and empathy for non-binary or homosexual individuals, and that resources referenced in the book “provide access to additional and reliable information”.

Finally, despite outrage over some of Kobabe’s illustrations featuring sexual situations, they determined that the book neither portrayed nor described pedophilia and would not be considered obscenity under Virginia law.

Stacy Langton, the Fairfax County parent who initially raised objections to the two books, said The Washington Post she chose to target the books after seeing media coverage of parents in Texas opposing it. She then checked her children’s high school library and saw that the books were available at the cash register. Langton said the fact that both books contain LGBTQ content was irrelevant to her, as she would protest books containing “grime” and “pornography” even if the main characters were heterosexual.

“I don’t care about the gender of the participants in the book, I don’t care about the sexual orientation of the characters,” she said. “It’s just pornography, period.”

Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement that the decision to restore both books following committee recommendations reaffirms the district’s “continued commitment to providing diverse reading material that reflects our student body, enabling every child to see himself reflected in literary figures. . “

Photo: Jason Leung / Unsplash

“Both critics concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relevant literary characters who reflect their personal backgrounds,” FCPS said in a press release. FCPS also noted that it has a process in place where parents can challenge books they deem inappropriate for school-aged children and, if found to be, removed from the books. school library shelves.

“I am convinced that the books have been selected in accordance with FCPS regulations and that they are suitable for inclusion in libraries serving high school students,” Klimenko said in a statement. “Both books have value beyond their pages for students who may have trouble finding relevant stories. “

The controversy at Fairfax over lawn boy and Homosexual gender is repeating itself in school systems across the country as conservative parents, activist groups and enterprising politicians grasp the relevance of school materials as the next battle in ongoing culture wars. Critics of those protesting the books say the broader goal is to eventually remove all books with LGBTQ content, sexual content, or works that deal with any controversial issues remotely from school libraries.

In neighboring Spotsylvania County, school board members began removing all “sexually explicit” books from libraries, with two board members pleading for the books to be burned. The school board later reversed those comments and overturned the decision to go ahead with the purge after the rejection of free speech advocates and local residents.

Pages from “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe – Photo: Goodreads.com.

The Pride Liberation Project, a group of gay and allied students fighting for LGBTQ rights and inclusive LGBTQ policies and regulations in schools, welcomed the district’s decision to put the books back on the shelves of high school libraries, saying that this is the correct audience for both books.

Aaryan Rawal, a 17-year-old student at Westfield High School and founder of the Pride Liberation Project, said Weekly metro that the group had testified before the school board in favor of maintaining the two lawn boy and Homosexual gender in libraries, writes an editorial in The Washington Post pushing back Langton and others calling for their removal, and circulated an open letter that received more than 400 signatures from students at every high school in the district to signal student opposition to the proposed book ban.

“We are incredibly excited to see these books coming back to our schools because we know that LGBTQIA + students deserve to be represented and deserve their voices to be heard in our school libraries,” said Rawal. “But we also know full well that we must continue to ensure that the voices of students are heard versus those who are trying to politicize queer lives.”

Rawal rebuffed claims that those who defend the books justify pedophilia, saying it is an unfair and inflammatory attack – dating back decades – that seeks to equate LGBTQ people with pedophiles in order to demonize the community and arouse opposition to LGBTQ rights or inclusive school environments.

“The reality is that these books just don’t describe pedophilia and pornography,” he added, referring to the disputed books. “Never in this book do we see any characters engaging in extended sex. Do they include representations of sex? Sure. But that’s not the point of the books. We read the book from before to And the reality is that nothing in there can be construed as pornography or pedophilia.

“We are confident that the FCPS School Board will continue to reject these attacks on LGBTQIA + students no matter what happens in Richmond, and we are really happy to see that we have very strong allies within the school board who are going to keep fighting for us, ”Rawal said.

“That said, we will continue to organize, we will continue to ensure that the school board respects its commitments to LGBTQIA + students and each student,” he added. “We will continue to fight to make sure that what is happening in Richmond and what is happening at the federal level does not affect the good work that is going on in Fairfax County.”

See also:

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