Fairfax County Public Schools announced Tuesday that two books that were criticized for having sexually-explicit scenes will be returned to its high school libraries following a review that found the books had literary value.
A pair of committees was formed in response to parent complaints that the books were inappropriate for a juvenile audience. In September, two speakers decried Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe at a school board meeting. The pair — a parent and a former teacher — said the books were inappropriate because they contained sexual content and depictions of pedophilia.
The district has a rule that a committee of parents, staff and students must review each library book that is challenged. Both groups were comprised of participants over the age of 18.
Each committee was tasked with reading, discussing and reviewing one of the books over the course of a month.
Both groups unanimously recommended that its book return to library shelves in order to provide students with underrepresented identities with diverse reading material that they can relate to, the district said in a news release.
The panel that assessed Lawn Boy said the book was “an accessible examination of race, class, socio-economic struggle, and sexual identity” that could be affirming for a number of students. The group that reviewed Gender Queer said it was a “scientifically based narrative of one person’s journey with gender identity that contains information and perspective that is not widely represented.”
Neither committee found depictions of pedophilia.
Noel Klimenko, assistant superintendent of instructional services, reviewed the panels’ reports and approved both books to be returned to shelves in the near future, according to the Washington Post.
“In this case, the way that it came forward, the committee was very clear that they both did not think that the complainants’ complaints were upheld and that they felt that this was a piece of literature that was very important for students to have access to,” Klimenko told the paper.
However, the Orange County School Board in Florida removed a speaker from a board meeting last month for using vulgar language after the person read a passage from Gender Queer: A Memoir. The speaker, Jacob Engels, read a scene from the book that described sexual acts using strap-on devices before board chairwoman Teresa Jacobs interjected.
That same week, local Virginia TV stations refused to air an ad depicting the same sexually explicit scene that Engels read, citing federal law that prohibits airing pornographic images.
Independent Women’s Voice created the 30-second ad, titled “Worth 1,000 Words,” to show adults what content is available to students in several Virginia districts, including Fairfax, Loudon, and Arlington, according to IWV.
“It’s shocking that images, and even some words, that federal law prohibits TV stations to share with adults are the same images being shared with Virginia students with no accountability,” said IWV vice president of communications Victoria Coley.
Meanwhile, Lawn Boy includes passages in which a young adult reflects on sexual encounters he had with another boy when the two were in the fourth grade.