A school district in Murray, Utah has suspended its inclusive book programs after arents raised concerns that a county teacher read, without parental consent, a book about a transgender character to a third-grade class.
“The uproar started when a student at Horizon Elementary brought a copy of “Call Me Max” from home and asked the teacher to read it aloud during storytime. The book is an illustrated account of a young transgender boy who educates his own teacher and classmates about his identity,” noted a Salt Lake Tribune article about the situation.
According to the Tribune, as the teacher at Horizon Elementary School in Utah was reading the text, said Murray School District spokesman Doug Perry, students in the class began asking her questions. One of them was specifically about puberty, Perry noted.
The teacher, not having read the book before, deflected most of the questions, the spokesman said.
“But some of the students talked to their parents about the book and the discussion. And a few families then called the district, angry that the book was shared with their kids without permission,” says the Tribune article.
According to the newspaper, “It’s not the first time there’s been concern about Utah schools having LGBTQ books. In 2012, a picture book about a lesbian couple raising a child was removed from the shelves of elementary school libraries in Davis County after a group of parents there raised objections.”
The Murray School district is taking its response beyond those two one-off cases, “now reviewing all of the literature in its “equity book bundles” program — even though “Call Me Max” is not part of that initiative and is not in any of the district’s libraries. It was only in the classroom because the student had a copy,” the Salt Lake media outlet noted.
Perry, the spokesman, explained that the goal is to examine all the books to see if any are similar to “Call Me Max” in subject matter or might cause concern for parents.
The Salt Lake Tribune reads that, “while it includes the LGBTQ community, the equity book program overall is more focused on addressing race and racism and introducing students to more authors of color. And the decision to suspend it falls at the start of Black History Month.”
But spokesman Perry said this was merely coincidental and that, in fact, the school respects Black History Month.
This move, according to The Salk Lake Tribune, “also comes after a separate Montessori school in North Ogden was allowing parents to “opt out” of the curriculum around Black History Month, but later reversed that decision after facing community pushback.”
School districts will not pull readings by black authors, according to Perry, who added that “many books by Black authors and about people of color will still be available for teachers and kids to read, including “Of Thee I Sing” by former President Barack Obama, as well as picture books about Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass.”
Some of them also appear on the equity book bundle lists and will remain on the shelves even with the program temporarily suspended, Perry added. Nothing will be removed until the review is complete.
“Anything in our libraries is fair game for teachers to use right now, including many books that are in the bundle program,” Perry added. “In fact, the bundle program is by no means an exhaustive list of books on equity. Our libraries have many others.”
A “diversifying” program
The equity book bundle program began late last yearl. As a result, elementary schools receive a copy of the 38 books on the district’s list. The list, according to the aforementioned media outlet, “The list was curated by Vanessa Jobe, a vice principal at Horizon Elementary where the program started.”
This program “works by diverse authors, including Ibram Kendi, and on diverse topics, such as what it means to grow up in a Latino family or to live with a disability. It’s meant to encourage educators to incorporate the stories into their lessons,” says the Tribune article.
The books, in theory, are divided by grade level, with second graders, for example, reading “Ohana Means Family” and fifth graders reading “This Book Is Anti-Racist.”
There are two books on the list directly related to the LGBTQ community. The newspaper noted that “one of those is for fifth graders about the work of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States. The other is for sixth graders and titled ‘Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History’.”
Utah, very different from California
The situation in Utah is diametrically opposed to what is happening in California Districts.
For example, last December the San Francisco Unified School District decided that Abraham Lincoln was not anti-racist enough and moved to rename Abraham Lincoln High School.
“The “vindicator” movement for America’s “racist past” is being driven by the San Francisco Unified School District. Their actions involve putting together a “renaming committee” that is deciding to rename many institutions in the state for racial issues. One of the schools to be renamed will be Abraham Lincoln High School because, according to the committee, the man who abolished slavery did not show much concern for black people,” the piece reads.
“In all, 44 of the 125 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District that will be renamed in a giant effort to be part of the national “racial justice” process, largely driven by progressive and left-wing movements like “Black Lives Matter,” embraced by many mainstream media outlets and Democratic political figures,” the article detailed.
Apparently, Utah is still a long way from accepting the positions being taken in districts dominated largely by progressive voices and authorities. At least the calls and complaints of parents are being heeded in Utah, a situation very different from California.