An Ohio school stopped a children’s author from reading his book to students after he said officials raised concerns about his story would “recruit kids to become gay.”
Jason Tharp, 45, said wrote “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn!,” to promote inclusion among children, and he was prepared to read it to students at an elementary school north of Columbus, Ohio on April 6.
The day before the scheduled reading, Tharp said he received a call from the principal of the Buckeye Valley Local School District’s saying higher-ups did not approve of the book and believed it could have a “gay agenda.”
“I just said, did somebody think I made a gay book? And he’s like, ‘Yeah,’ and I’m like, ‘Because why? Rainbows and unicorns?'” Tharp told USA TODAY, adding that the principal confirmed that as the reasoning.
Tharp said he found this rather confusing since the school knew about his visit for two years, and the school’s administration ordered over 500 of his books to be distributed to the kids six weeks prior to his visit.
A school parent shared concerns about the book to the superintendent, Tharp said.
“This parent had gone through my social media and saw that I was supportive of LGBT,” he said. “What it turns out was that it was one parent that came in and said that apparently, I was coming in with an agenda to recruit kids to be gay.”
Tharp emphasized his book had no reference to the LGTBQ community, but that he created the character of a unicorn since they are non-threatening and lovable.
He also said he would have been willing to sit down with the school board and explain his book to avoid this confusion.
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USA TODAY has reached out to the Buckeye Valley Local School District for comment.
Tharp said he offered to read a different book, “It’s Okay to Smell Good!,” which tells the story of a skunk that enjoys good-smelling things, unlike other skunks. In the end, the skunk finds another who also likes things that smell nice and the two become friends.
The principal rejected the offer, saying higher-ups did not want Tharp to read any book and would rather him just focus on a positive message.
Some parents were not happy that Tharp was prevented from reading his book, and the school board held an emergency meeting on April 8 to address the event.
“It’s the craziest thing, and never in a million years would have thought that I’d be defending a unicorn because people thought I was trying to recruit kids,” said Tharp.