Knox County School District debates removing books from high school library

UNION — Members of a Knox County regional school board are embroiled in the national debate over whether to remove library books about sexuality and gender identity.

RSU 40 school board members will read copies of a frequently targeted book, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe before deciding next month whether to keep it in the Medomak Valley High School library or withdraw as a few parents have requested. . The board is expected to make a decision on October 20.

RSU 40 serves students from Union, Friendship, Waldoboro, Warren and Washington.

Parents first asked in October 2021 to have “Gender Queer” removed, Superintendent Steve Nolan said.

Nolan said he followed district policy when a book was challenged: he appointed a committee that reviewed the book and submitted a report to it, after which he decided to keep the book in the library. A Waldoboro resident, who is not the parent of a student in the district, appealed the decision in June.

The superintendent said the next step is for council members to review the book. The district received copies on September 15 and council members will read it before the October 20 meeting.

The book is not required reading in any class, but is available at the library.

“Gender Queer” won the Alex Prize as well as the Stonewall Book Award. There are two copies in the school library.

Nolan explained in May that these books were carefully selected under district policy requiring a variety of materials, and were also reviewed at the time of purchase.

At the May school board meeting, student representative Owen Webber said he sent out a survey to other students and that 75% of the responses were against book bans and censorship. Webber said the responses also indicated that his peers wanted to learn more about LGBTQ history and issues.

Two parents spoke during the public comment session of the September 15 meeting, seeking to have the book removed. One said the book was pornographic and about paedophilia. The removal would protect students, the parent said.

“Gender Queer” is a graphic memoir that has been targeted by conservative groups across the country.

The book contains images and candid discussions of gender identity and sexuality that have sparked debate in several Maine school districts, including the Buxton-based SAD 6. Across the country, dozens of schools pulled it from library shelves.

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