Parent Requests Gay Book Pulled from Fauquier High School’s Library
A book with two boys kissing on its cover has led to a Fauquier County High School parent to file a complaint and request the removal of the book from the school’s library.
“Two Boys Kissing,” by New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, tells the story of two 17-year-old boys participating in a kissing marathon. It details their own relationship and the issues young LGBTQ people face in the real world. The book has won numerous awards including the Best Books of 2013 by the American Libraries Association, and the Stonewall Book award for 2014.
The book was purchased for FHS this year and was placed on the library shelves. FHS Librarian Becca Isaac said some students were laughing and joking about the book – it’s cover is attention grabbing. After this incident, a student went home and told their mother.
The parent, Jessica Wilson, reached out to the school’s principal. Wilson then spoke to Isaac and told the librarian she was concerned about the content of the cover, specifically how it violates the school’s rules against public displays of affection.
“My first thought was that I was shocked,” Wilson told FHS’s student paper, The Falconer. “My second though was who purchased this book and why?… This book just kind of felt snuck in the by library.”
Wilson went on to tell the Falconer she thought the purchase of the book was questionable from a budgetary standpoint. “I can’t imagine that there wasn’t another, more appropriate book they could have purchased that would have appealed to a wider audience.”
Isaac, a High School Librarian for 16 years, said all book purchases for the library follow the school’s policies, which state material should cover all “points of view on current and historical issues.” The policy also states materials should not be removed because of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
Isaac said there are other books in the library which show straight couples in a kissing embrace, in addition to other books covers which, when looked at through Wilson’s eyes, could also be banned. “We have books that have guns on the cover and we don’t allow guns in school. We have books with drugs on the cover, it’s not the same kind of issue there…” said Isaac. “I’ve never had a formal complaint about a book.”
Isaac said she can usually talk a parent down when they have a complaint about a book. This is the first time she’s seen a book go this far in the challenge process.
A school-based committee gathered and voted to keep the book on the shelves in February. Wilson has since appealed this decision. The next step will be higher level committee appointed by FPS Associate Superintendent Sandra Mitchell. The committee will read and review the book by 4/23 and the result of that hearing will be released the following day.
If they decide to retain the book, Wilson will have another chance to appeal that decision.
But Wilson told the Falconer she wasn’t sure if she would go to the next step in the appeals process. “It’s not like this isn’t a book I wouldn’t let my kids read. but its the fact that it’s in a school,” she said. “When you’re a teenager it’s normal to question your sexuality, your faith, but the school isn’t your nanny; it isn’t up to the school to provide this guidance.”
The ACLU of Virginia’s Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg said The Supreme Court has weighed in on issues like this before, and they made clear students have a First Amendment right to receive ideas.
“While school officials have some discretion to decide what books to include in the library, they may not remove a book simply because of disagreement with the ideas in the book,” said Glenberg. ” A book may not be removed simply because it is about a gay relationship, if the same book would be allowed if it described a relationship between a boy and a girl.
Glenberg applauded the school’s committee for deciding to keep the book on it’s shelves,and said she hoped the next level of review “will show the same respect for students’ right to have access to a broad range of ideas.”
Requests from FHS’s administration had not been returned by press time.
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