NJ Parents Bombard School Board Over Library’s ‘Pornographic’ Gender ID Books
WAYNE — A single copy of a best-selling graphic novel memoir, repeatedly called "porn" by some angry township parents, has dominated a considerable part of recent board of education meetings.
On Thursday, "Gender Queer" was repeatedly referenced again, along with six other book titles facing an official complaint from three parents, as of that evening.
All of the selections were considered LGBTQ in subject matter, as they are focus on gender identity issues.
“Gender Queer” topped the list of official book complaints lodged, according to school officials.
Despite months of continued reference at public meetings, there were just three filed complaints as of Thursday.
The district's sole copy of the book, by a nonbinary author, has been available at the Wayne Hills High School.
Superintendent Mark Toback said the books would stay put, pending a formal assessment of each complaint by a committee.
'The book is pornographic and inappropriate on the shelves of our school library,'
“Books sitting on shelves in libraries aren’t being taught in classrooms. They’re in a place where they can be sought out by those that need them,” one parent and Wayne alumnus, Jacob Van Lunen, said during the public comment portion.
“When some of the kids in a community feel that an attack on a book is an attack on who they are as people, I think we should listen to them.”
“Everyone here wants what’s best for the kids,” he added.
“The book is pornographic and inappropriate on the shelves of our school library,” another township parent, Shayna Kiguelman, said of the graphic novel memoir. “I would feel the same way if the book was images of heterosexual sex.”
“‘Gender Queer’, if you have done your research, does not quality as porn, so please stop calling it porn. It is not porn. it has been brought to the courts,” Board of Education member Stacey Scher said during her response after public comments of the evening.
“This is not my decision — this is not my decision, this is the United States courts saying that it is not porn,” Scher’s comments were briefly cut off by a woman shouting.
She added the book (which is a best seller on Amazon) also remained available in the Wayne Public Library.
Another township resident, Brittany Coral, brought select photocopied pages from the graphic novel to hand out.
She brought those papers to the podium with her, where she said that the township teacher’s union has been attacking the personal beliefs of residents.
Back in June at a previous board meeting, Coral said the “classroom has morphed into a playground of propaganda,” as reported previously by NorthJersey.com.
Books under scrutiny
Other titles geared toward younger readers covered in the three complaints received last week were: "My Princess Boy," "Sparkle Boy," "When Kayla was Kyle," “From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea,” and “Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story of Gender and Friendship.”
"Who Are You?: The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity" was another title being contested by a parent, along with "Gender Queer," Toback confirmed at the meeting.
“LGBTQAI is not a theory, people, it’s a reality. So don’t get up here and call it a theory,” Scher said during the same Thursday meeting.
The author of "Gender Queer," Maia Kobabe, uses the pronouns "ey/em/eirs." Those are considered neoprouns, sets developed from the 20th century (or sometimes 19th century) to today.
'LGBTQAI is not a theory, people, it’s a reality. So don’t get up here and call it a theory.'
The book has been banned in at least one school district in Florida and also has been challenged at schools in Ohio, Texas and Washington D.C., according to Kobabe in an October opinion piece for the Washington Post.
A school board in Illinois that recently heard challenges to the book saw its meeting attended by members of a local Proud Boys chapter, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kobabe said when asked what age of reader the book is recommended for, "I would generally answer high school and above but the truth is, the readers I primarily wrote it for were my own parents and extended family. When I was first coming out as nonbinary, I kept getting responses along the lines of, 'We love you, we support you, but we have no idea what you are talking about.'”
Transgender refers to people who do not totally identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term is not indicative of sexual orientation, such as gay or straight or bisexual.
Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary, according to Trans Student Educational Resources.
'I haven’t heard any concerns about the data that just was reported — 30% of eighth-graders are proficient.'
Unfinished learning, interrupted
During the same meeting Thursday, Wayne Assistant Schools Superintendent Donna Reichman presented the district’s ongoing plans regarding “unfinished learning,” as the COVID-19 pandemic caused “unprecedented disruption” in education starting in March 2020.
“Math results, nationally, have estimated that students are lagging behind... and mastery of material is only estimated to be 50%,” Reichman said. “This was an unfortunate result of the pandemic, with students not having that direct instruction and learning from home.”
She said the district was “very confident" with the plans it has in place to deal with learning loss.
“I haven’t heard any concerns about the data that just was reported — 30% of eighth graders are proficient — that’s it,” said Stana Vasilic, a Wayne Township native now living in Woodland Park, during the Thursday public meeting.
“Everybody wants to be heard, nobody’s listening.”
Vasilic said she was attending the session after hearing a lot about the recent heated board meetings, largely dominated by the issue of enrichment materials that highlight topics of gender identity.
Public school board meetings across the country have recently been flooded with polarizing issues on curriculum issues, as districts struggle with nearly two years' of learning loss amid the public health crisis.
“It’s gotten pretty heated in here like it always does,” Board of Education member Michael Bubba said on Thursday. “Everybody wants to be heard, nobody’s listening.”
The entire Thursday Wayne Township Board of Education meeting has been posted to the district's Youtube channel.