Wayne NJ’s parents demand removal of gender identity books from school

WAYNE – Parents are calling on the Board of Education to permanently remove what they consider inappropriate and “pornographic” material from several school libraries.

The problem emerged last month, but it came to a head last week when at least three parents filed complaints with the K-12 District for seven pounds. They include an award-winning memoir titled “Gender Queer,” which has received tremendous reviews across the country for its suggestive language and cartoon images of masturbation and oral sex.

All of the books reviewed at Wayne deal with topics related to gender identity, and none are assigned to students as part of the district curriculum.

“There is a national discussion, and just recently it has come to the fore in Wayne and many other communities,” said Mark Toback, the principal of the school.

Opinion: “Hiding from history, even the ‘disgusting and crass’ parts, doesn’t protect us. It hurts us.”

Relevant libraries are located at Lafayette, Randall Carter, Ryerson and Theunis Dey schools, as well as Wayne Hills High School, where the district’s only copy of “Gender Queer” is kept.

Toback said complaints had also been filed against “My Princess Boy,” “Sparkle Boy,” and “When Kayla was Kyle,” a picture book for first and second graders.

The books will remain on the library shelves, pending formal evaluation by a committee whose members Toback will appoint. He declined to comment on the matter, saying the review process outweighed his own feelings.

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But controversial headlines gained momentum on Thursday night, when LGBTQ allies told the school board that literature is valuable to young readers.

“It wasn’t only revealing,” Dawn Toussas said of “Gender Queer”, but “it was educational.”

Parents who are against books said they wanted to protect their rights to teach their children about sex.

“There are other ways to bring inclusion without using inappropriate sexual material,” Dana Alequin told directors. “What may be appropriate for one household may be very different for another household.”

“That’s the big takeaway from this,” she added. “Every home and every family is different, and it’s not for the school to judge what’s appropriate for everyone.”

“Gender Queer” chronicles the author’s journey of self-discovery, according to Oni Press, the Oregon-based publisher who published the 240-page graphic novel in 2019.

Maia Kobabe, who uses non-binary pronouns, describes their confusion with teenage crushes and having to grapple with how to date family and society, among other personal struggles.

“Gender Queer” is important and timely work “serving not only those who identify as non-binary or genderqueer, but also those who seek to understand what that means,” the editor said in a statement.

Cover of 'Gender Queer', a memoir by Maia Kobabe.

But he’s been vilified like coal in school systems as far as Alaska and the outskirts of El Paso, Texas. On the outskirts of Chicago, one neighborhood weighed in last week if it was to hold the book.

And in South Carolina, the situation escalated into a criminal investigation. Governor Henry McMaster has called for an investigation, calling the book “obscene”.

A local school board policy, approved in 2009, describes how the book review process is carried out. The Superintendent’s Committee presents its findings to the Trustees, who have the power to remove the material if they see fit.

However, the policy states: “No disputed material may be removed solely because it presents ideas which may be unpopular or offensive to some.”

Parents who have challenged the books can appeal the school board’s final decision to the state Department of Education commissioner.

Philip DeVenceentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

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