Parents read aloud from books they said were pornographic, inappropriate, sexual and vulgar during a Guilford Board of Education (BOE) meeting after the books, which are available in Guilford school libraries, were shared on social media.
The books included the graphic novel Flamer by Mike Curato, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and the illustrated It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris. Flamer, in particular, has roiled Board of Education meetings elsewhere in the country and at BOE meetings in Connecticut. The Guilford BOE meeting remained calm as some individuals read passages from the books.
Several parents said they weren’t trying to ban the books but wanted some form of parental notification, saying that films, video games and music have ratings so parents can determine whether the material is appropriate for their child.
“It’s not about banning. The thing is, these books, it’s not your place to give them to my kids, and it’s not my place to give it to anybody else’s kids,” one mother said. “If you want to have them available to children, that’s fine, and if parents want to take them out and show them and go over it with their kids, that’s fine, too.”
“But the parents should be made aware. There’s got to be a way we can communicate and make it accessible but have the parents aware that these books are being given to their children,” she continued.
A Guilford resident and former teacher whose children had already graduated said a book like It’s Perfectly Normal would be “a good book for a parent to purchase and review with their children but not to have download access to and read on their own.”
“There are some inappropriate illustrations in this book and illustrations of sex acts,” she said. “Many children are not mature enough to consume this information, exposure to these books puts our children in an emotionally and physically unsafe environment.”
However, other residents, including a Guilford Public School librarian, defended having the books in the library system, saying that the books are helpful for LGBTQ students who may be navigating a stressful and confusing time in their lives.
“It’s particularly disheartening for me to hear that there are members of our community jumping on what feels like a national right-wing movement to remove books from classrooms, particularly ones that relate to the LGBTQ plus community,” said a parent who said she works in the children’s book publishing industry. “It’s not about this specific book or any one book being challenged, it’s about the right of free people to read freely. It’s about intellectual freedom; it’s about teachers and librarians being able to connect to their students to books that can help them be seen and give them a window into somebody else’s experience.”
BOE chairwoman Kathleen M.B. Balestracci said at the beginning of the meeting that her office had received 29 emails from residents over the past two weeks denouncing attempts to remove books from the school library and only two emails criticizing the books.
“Per Board of Education policy, the board recognizes the students’ right to access many different types of materials, and the board is disinclined to remove such access,” Balestracci said, adding that, so far, there have been no requests to remove the books and if there were, the BOE would review the books.
According to school board policy, the final decision on controversial materials rests with the board “after careful examination and discussion of said materials with professional staff,” and parents can request in writing that their student not have access to specific materials.
However, Balestracci lambasted comments on social media criticizing the school librarians.
“I have personally seen some of these comments on social media and I must state that I am appalled at the attacks on and insinuation about our school librarians,” Balestracci said. “These professional educators conduct their jobs with great care and expertise and vicious attacks on their character or job performance based on the presence of particular books in our school libraries are unjustified and undeserved.”
According to the American Library Association, Lawn Boy and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl — also read from during the Guilford BOE meeting — were among the ten most challenged books in 2021.
March 15, 2023 @ 8:08 am
In just 40 years, Guilford has gone from a great place to raise kids to a cesspool.