An official school review of an edgy book about LGBTQ+ relationships found that the book has educational value and should remain on the high school side of the library. However, an Abington resident has appealed that decision setting up another round of review and debate.
Meanwhile the school committee may consider a policy tweak that would notify parents and guardians when their children take out library books that contain more mature language and themes.
Superintendent Peter Schafer created a review panel, as required under Abington school policies, after a resident challenged the presence of “This Book Is Gay” in the Middle/High School library.
The book has been targeted by parents locally and nationally over its frank discussion about sexuality and relationships insisting the content crosses lines into offensive and pornographic. However, the book has received praise from many others saying it helps older LGBTQ+ teenagers navigate a challenging time in their lives with real-world advice and cautionary tales.
An Abington parent questioned the book’s presence in the Middle/High School library at the start of they school year and it was temporarily removed while Schafer reviewed it. He ultimately returned it after reading the book in its entirety, however a resident later submitted an official challenge.
Schafer told the school committee at its last meeting that the panel read the book, deliberated, and by a majority vote, recommended it remain on the high school side of the shared Middle/High School library.
“The book, in context, cautions about sex, safe sex, and online behvaior,” he said. “Once you look at whole book in its entirety it’s a book that I think students could get good information from…I don’t like that sense of humor but the information in there overall keeps kids safe.”
Schafer said that the public and private discussions about the book, which has received some statewide attention, had a toll on those involved.
“I can tell you the discussion over this book has been stressful to many, most of all, regardless of anyone’s intention, it’s been stressful to our LGBTQ students,” he said.
School Committee member Heidi Hernandez said while she originally had concerns about the book after seeing isolated sections online, her stance changed after reading it. Similar to how schools discuss the dangers of alcohol and drugs before students are old enough to partake, Hernandez feels the book will keep LGBTQ+ students safe.
“If students want to come sit in a corner of the library and read something that might help them or save them or have a higher understanding, then I fully support that,” she said.
The same Abington resident who filed the formal challenge in October has appealed the review panel’s finding to the full school committee. The school committee will hear from the resident at an upcoming meeting and then make a decision whether to uphold.
School Committee Chairman Chris Coyle said he will meet with other members of the policy school committee to consider a suggestion that parents or guardians get notified when their child takes out a book with mature themes. If the subcommittee feels the idea is worthwhile, they will make a formal policy recommendation for the entire board to consider.