Hamtramck Public Schools will establish a new process that includes parents to review books for students after some raised concerns about books with LGBTQ themes that they deem too sexually explicit for children.
“We will be introducing a new book review process that will include a committee comprised of parents, educators and administrators,” the district said in a statement provided Friday by Hamtramck’s acting superintendent of schools and director of development. of the English language, Nabil Nagi. “The committee’s role will not be to limit student access to books, but to ensure that the books made available to our students are appropriate based on educational guidelines.”
Nagi added in a letter that some of the protesters’ claims are inaccurate.
At a packed board meeting last Wednesday, speakers railed against the books and the district. The scene and messages were similar to board meetings and protests held in recent months in Dearborn. Attendees and protesters at the Hamtramck meeting included Republicans and others who led protests in Dearborn: Hassan Aoun, Stephanie Butler and Mike Hacham. Similar protests have taken place across Michigan this year.
Protesters said LGBTQ books were inappropriate for Hamtramck due to its large immigrant and Muslim population. Hamtramck has the highest percentage of immigrant residents among Michigan towns, many of whom are Muslim.
At the Hamtramck meeting, Aoun yelled at school officials, approaching the table where they were sitting and dropping a book he objected to, telling one of them to read it. .
“You call yourself a Muslim? Aoun told a school official. “You are not a Muslim.”
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The day after the board meeting, the mayor of Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib, posted a statement on Facebook expressing his support for parents concerned about the books, writing: “Dear parents of Hamtramck: we heard you, as As a parent, I personally share the same concerns with you. on the type, quality and future of our children’s education. We hope that you and the school board will resolve the urgent issue of books in the best interests of our children and our community as a whole. … We will do everything we can to help you achieve this goal.”
The district pushed back against their claims, saying inaccurate information about the matter was circulating online. In a Nov. 4 letter to parents, Nagi wrote, “Today we were made aware of social media posts indicating that the district has approved certain materials for our students that contain language, images, and inappropriate concepts for our students.”
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Two of the books protesters oppose include Mike Curato’s ‘Flamer’ and George Johnson’s ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’.
But “the district’s investigation has revealed that none of the material these positions complained about that was allegedly made available to our students has in fact been reviewed or approved,” Nagi said in his letter. “While we can understand the concern of the community… we should all be disappointed when baseless accusations and allegations are made which basic investigation and research could have prevented.”
Nagi told the Free Press that “there seems to be a misunderstanding about the materials contained in our curriculum and available to students in our libraries. I think we have made progress in clarifying this, but we will work further with our parents to try and make sure there is no confusion.”
The statement adds that the district is “proud to partner with parents and guardians to provide students with a safe and healthy learning environment. Through a comprehensive review process in accordance with state and federal guidelines, all materials used in the instruction of our students are reviewed against state and federal educational guidelines. »
But because “we value the partnership we have developed with our parents and the community,” the district will have a new review process, the district said.
The book debate is the latest controversy in Hamtramck regarding LGBTQ issues. Last year, former mayor Karen Majewski raised an LGBTQ Pride flag in front of City Hall, which upset some townspeople. Ghalib ran for mayor on a platform that included opposing the raising of the pride flag on city property.
In July, Hamtramck Human Relations Commission Chairman Russ Gordon raised an LGBTQ Pride flag on town property on Joseph Campau Avenue, sparking criticism and renewing debate. Homophobic graffiti was found in a park outside City Hall in September.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: [email protected] or Twitter @nwarikoo.