Bonny Eagle school board delays decision on whether to keep controversial book in high school library

The SAD 6 school board will decide in two weeks whether to keep a controversial book about gender and sexuality on the library shelves at Bonny Eagle High School.

The decision to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe from the high school library follows the board’s 10-1 decision two weeks ago, “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex , Gender, and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris remain on the library shelves at Bonny Eagle Middle School. Both books address gender identity and sexuality, issues that have troubled parents in school districts across the country. Gender Queer: A Memoir tops the American Library Association’s list of books contested in school districts across the country in 2021.

Portland Press Herald file photo

Parents of district students appealed after the district’s Material Review Committee found the books were timely, relevant and did not glorify or promote a particular type of lifestyle. Some parents claim that the books contain pornographic images and details and should not be accessible to students. Neither book is part of a SAD 6 curriculum or assigned to a student in a district class.

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Gender queer has come under scrutiny in other Maine school districts. On August 10, the RSU 56 school board voted to remove the book from Dirigo High School’s library after parents complained. The high school is in Dixfield.

Bonny Eagle Schools Superintendent Clay Gleason told board members that he would make copies of Gender Queer available for everyone to read, with a decision on whether to allow the book for the next board meeting on Oct. 3.

Board members spent more than an hour Monday night listening to residents on both sides of the issue.

Opponents claim the book is pornographic and contains graphic descriptions of sexual acts that high schoolers should not be exposed to. They claim the book has no place in a school library funded by taxpayers.

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

Randa Thomas, a high school teacher, read a letter from an unnamed “queer” student asking the board to keep “gender queer” circulating. The student said the book offers insight into how a person’s body doesn’t always reflect their soul.

“By removing this book you are sending a message that we are not welcome here,” the student wrote.

Several parents who want the book removed said the descriptions of sexual acts were far too detailed and not age appropriate.

“This has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community,” said Standish’s Charity Boedeker. “It’s the sexually explicit materials in these books.”

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Hollis’ Jess Webber, a teacher at Bonny Eagle High School whose son is enrolled there, supports keeping gender queer on library shelves. Webber told the board that one group of people could not speak for all district parents.

“We have to ask ourselves what Bonny Eagle stands for. Do we want to stand for book banners, hysteria and scaremongering?” said Weber. “I want to stand for acceptance and love, for reason and decency.”

Board members did not comment on the issue during Monday’s hearing. MSAD 6 represents the cities of Buxton, Standish, Limington, Hollis and Frye Island.

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