Congressman Fred Keller has released a public letter requesting information from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and acting state Secretary of Education Eric Haggerty regarding how they review controversial books in school libraries.
“We write to you today to relay the concerns of various Pennsylvania educators, state officials, and most importantly parents regarding radical indoctrination of students in the classroom,” Representative Keller began in his open letter. The representative from Pennsylvania suggested that, although individual parent-teacher associations are given the authority to add or remove books from library shelves, the state, through the Department of Education, might need to provide additional oversight.
As Timcast has previously reported, Gender Queer: A Memoir, the book at the center of his concerns, has reached the attention of parents in other states to the extent that the New York Times has called it one of the most banned books in the country. In Dixfield, Maine, parents of students at Dirigo High School raised the issue of the content in the book and asked that it be removed from the shelves. In response, however, local business owners rallied to ensure that children could obtain free copies of the book.
In the book, author Maia Kobabe details and draws a number of scenes that have been singled out for condemnation by parents who have said they are not opposed to LGBT-related topics, but find the way they are handled in this instance to be pornographic. The New York Times, in its defense of the book, admits that it includes a number of scenes parents might find troubling:
It’s a graphic memoir that deals with puberty and sexual identity, and includes a few drawings of nude characters and sexual scenarios — images that critics of the book were able to share on social media to stoke a backlash. The book explores the author’s discomfort with traditional gender roles, and features depictions of masturbation, period blood and confusing sexual experiences.
The book also features images of the author and a girlfriend “experimenting with a strap-on sex toy” and imagining two men engaging in intercourse.
While Keller stops short of characterizing the book as pornographic, he does suggest that the “graphic material” does not provide educational value to elementary and secondary students.
Keller has asked the governor to address the following questions:
What processes are currently in place to review school library material?
- How do school boards, schools, and librarians engage with parents to determine age and academically appropriate content?
- What have the PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) and the Administration done to ensure the focus remains on academic outcomes and student success?
- Has there been any investigation into this matter? Please report back regarding how any of the inappropriate material being supplied to Pennsylvania schools fits into the regular school curriculum, enhances student learning or improves educational outcomes.