Our heartiest thanks to ABSS school superintendent Dr. Dain Butler for his decisive action in removing a highly offensive book from the school library at Western High School.
We’ve rarely seen such bold and dramatic action by a local school official.
Nor such a common-sense and direct explanation for doing so.
In a family newspaper, we certainly cannot reprint most of the illustrations contained in the book, Gender Queer, but we think it almost obvious enough from its title and theme (broadly defined as various versions of gay sex) that it would be a questionable selection for a public school library.
Other terminology that should give more innocent readers an idea of the content is “gender identity,” “gender fluidity” (i.e., the author ruminates over her uncertainty about her “true” sexuality and invites young readers to come along for the adventure), and other sexually explicit themes.
We puzzled recently over the almost-rabid enthusiasm that some school personnel voiced to the school board, broadly proclaiming their desire to keep this type of printed material in school libraries.
While much of the focus of their comments was defending the LGBTQ themes of some of the books, which we also find of questionable value in elementary and secondary schools, the absolutely indefensible aspect is the downright obscene and pornographic illustrations that accompany the (sometimes) more mundane narratives.
As noted, we cannot show our readers what is included in these books, and even to offer a circumspect explanation is somewhat embarrassing – to both the reader and the editor.
Suffice it to say that in some of the most egregious examples, oral sex is a theme. Whether the characters presented are male or female (with adjunct genitalia) is left somewhat unclear – and we can assure our readers that they would not want to concentrate for very long on trying to decipher which might actually be the case.
Indeed, this uncertainty about gender appears to be one of the primary themes explored in this book.
But we consider Dr. Butler’s explanations to our reporter to be profoundly accurate and succinct. We believe him reserved in calling the book “borderline pornographic.” We believe most of our readers would readily eliminate the cautionary adjective.
His oft-repeated phrase “highly inappropriate” is also understated.
He emphasizes that the book fails primarily because of its explicit illustrations, more than its other content.
Let us be clear on any so-called First Amendment grounds for defending the book. We don’t particularly mind if grown adults want to peruse the book or study it intently – even to the point of admiring the explicit and offensive illustrations.
Indeed, if there are actually any parents who would want their children to see such materials, they may do so within their own homes.
No school employee – not teacher, librarian, or otherwise – has any business involving himself or herself in adolescent and child sexuality.
That’s part of a parent’s job.
Most fundamentally, the superintendent is absolutely correct in his summary judgment that the book “does not represent what we should be sharing with our students.”
Deeply troubling to parents should be that similar materials were among those that other library officials, with May Memorial Library, were proud to display not in just a high school or teenaged area of the public library recently, but rather adjacent to the section expressly aimed at elementary school children.
The county commissioners have generally wanted to ignore the issue when it surfaced there, but the superintendent’s bold and decisive action should give the commissioners more backbone to call on the carpet any county employee who is peddling such pornographic materials in the name of a public library.
Dr. Butler has only been back in Alamance County two months, but in this instance he has established himself as a strong educational leader with a focus on actual education.
We recently questioned his unilateral action in a financial area where we thought the school board should have been involved.
But here he has acted – properly and independently – in his capacity as the chief administrative education official for the county and made a very sound educational decision.
We’re sure he’ll take some incoming fire for his forthright action.
We hope other parents, citizens, and public officials – most especially, county commissioners and school board members – will offer him well-deserved appreciation, support, and respect.