West Chester School Board Votes 8-1 To Keep ‘Gender Queer’

WEST CHESTER, PA — West Chester school board voted 8-1 Monday night to keep ‘Gender Queer’ on the school library shelves, after students and board members spoke out in favor of keeping the book on the shelves.

The issue arose after some parents demanded the removal of the graphic memoir, due to sexually explicit content.

The 2019 book was written by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe, tracing a child’s journey into adulthood grappling with gender, sexuality and awkward puberty.

It sparked controversy in the school district’s nationwide over the sexual content.

Following the vote, members of the audience applauded.

Before the vote, Assistant Superintendent Kalia Reynolds said a book review committee recommended keeping the graphic memoir.

The committee formed and met several times in response to complaints that the book was too graphic. Two students served on the committee.

Reynolds said the group discussed providing books of all points of view and the issue of challenging censorship. Reynolds noted that there is a high rate of suicide among LBGTQ+ students.

She said the book has received awards.

“We want to make sure that students have access to all types of books,” Reynolds said.

“Understanding of one’s sexuality”

Superintendent Bob Sokolowski described the book as a “coming into understanding of one’s sexuality and one’s orientation.”

He said keeping it is aligned with the principle of protecting free speech as well as rights and regard for our LBGTQ+ students.

Board member Stacey Whomsley voted against keeping the book on the shelves because she has questions about the process of the book’s review.

Whomsley said she has concerns about people who want to keep their privacy and believes that a decision should be postponed.

“Not everyone wants to be in the spotlight,” she said.

Board member Daryl Durnell said he grew up as a Christian who is gay, and he could identify with the book.

He said for the students who seek the book out, it offers positive support.

‘Escaping a Sinking Ship’ children’s book remains

The board also voted 8 to 1 to keep the book, ‘Escaping a Sinking Ship,’ on the library shelves as recommended by the book review committee.

The book written by Emily Oachs is about sharing the stories of ships that have sunk throughout history.

Board member Whomsley voted against keeping the book because she believes the decision should be postponed until the April.

The book was reviewed following a complaint that chapter four appears sympathetic to Nazi’s because it has a photograph of Adolf Hitler.

The fourth chapter of the book examines the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, who sank while carrying German citizens and soldiers who were fleeing the country to escape Soviet forces in 1945.

The ship, which was named after a Nazi leader, was at one time used as a luxury vessel and barracks for Nazi soldiers but was later altered for use to evacuate German citizens.

“As these are optional books within the library’s vast collection and offer our students an inclusive and unique perspective concerning the problems and issues of the current time and the past, the books will remain within the district,” Reynolds said.

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