DELAWARE Oh. – A school north of Ohio’s capital city Columbus reportedly asked an author not to read his children’s book “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn” ahead of a planned visit amid parental concerns of it promoting LGBTQ+ issues. The incident was the subject of a recent emergency school board meeting in Delaware, Ohio.
CBS-affiliate WBNS reported that author Jason Tharp was slated to visit the Buckeye Valley Local School District last Thursday before he learned a parent raised concerns over his acceptance-themed book with a unicorn and rainbow lettering on the cover.
Then, he got a call from the principal, asking him to remove “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn” from his planned presentation, according to the network. A follow-up email asked Tharp also to exclude “It’s Okay to Smell Good,” which is about a skunk.
Tharp – a straight, married man – told the station he was not pushing an LGBTQ+ agenda. He just wanted to connect with students and offer support. As a child who did n’t fit in with his classmates, Tharp knows how much books like his can help children.
“I think a book can save people cause it saved me when I was a kid,” he said. “I got lost in books, and it taught me that it was okay to be creative, and it was okay to think different, and so that was what my mission was with this book was just to write something that helped kids understand it is good that you’re different than me, and it is good because we can learn something from each other. And a unicorn’s the best way to do it because kids love unicorns.”
Interim Superintendent Jeremy Froehlich initially denied the allegations, telling WBNS that the unicorn book wasn’t even part of the planned presentation. Tharp immediately disputed Froehlich’s claims, showing the station the email from the principal.
As at least one parent complained, others are confused about why a book about acceptance wouldn’t be allowed.
Kaylan Brazelton, a mother of two who works at Buckeye Valley West, spoke at the emergency meeting last Friday, saying she didn’t understand the school’s decision, according to TV10. She also said teachers at the school were instructed to take down kids’ artwork relating to the book.
“I was simply confused and people were taking stuff down and…they said we had to take anything down with unicorns and rainbows,” Brazelton said.
Another parent asked: “So why couldn’t we read a book with a rainbow on it?”
Froehlich later told TV10 that all art was displayed “as far as he’s aware.” He also told the network the complaint from the concerned parent “just wanted to make sure that we vetoed the book.”
WBNS reported that it was the first to bring the email to the interim superintendent’s attention.
Tharp went through with his visit last week, excluding the titles the school principal asked him to. But he told TV10 he was disappointed for himself and the students.
“I’m not here to entertain adults that want to project their own whatever issues onto a children’s book, I’m here to create books that inspire kids to dream big, embrace themselves, understand the importance of self-kindness, to really learn how to manage your emotions because it’s a confusing world we live in, and being a human is not easy,” Tharp said. “If an adult is struggling, that’s what therapy’s for, not my kids’ books, and I hope that maybe even my kids’ books might inspire some adults, but they’re meant for the child to figure themselves out, just be a tool , that’s it.”