Bow school board votes to keep controversial book “Gender Queer” on library shelves

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 04-15-2023 11:00 AM

After months of discussion and review, the Bow school district in a unanimous vote has decided to keep the controversial book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe on the high school’s library shelves.

Navigating gender dysphoria, self-discovery and sexuality from childhood to adulthood are explored through Kobabe’s personal journey in the book published in 2019.

Despite opposition from some parents concerned about the book’s graphic content at last Thursday’s highly attended school board meeting, the board remained firm in its commitment to providing diverse and inclusive resources for students.

Having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+, Martin Osterloh, a school board member, expressed his support for the book, emphasizing that he wished this type of literature was available to his relative during their formative years.

“Bow should be a place of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Osterloh. “We find strength in diversity; we find strength in inclusion and we learn from one another.”

Over a period of three months, the media review committee at Bow High School, consisting of the principal, a librarian, a school counselor, an English teacher, and a parent, read and reviewed “Gender Queer.” Their 43-page report confirmed that the book meets the selection criteria outlined in the school district’s policy for library material selection. The committee recommended that the book remain on the library shelves.

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At the school board meeting, the objectivity of the review committee was called into question.

Nicole Foote, a Bow resident, raised concerns about the participation of Sam Dixon, the librarian who had ordered the book.

“It’s like putting a murderer’s parents on the jury,” said Foote upset over the review committee’s recommendation. ” They will without a doubt find reasons for the murderer to be set free.”

The majority of parents who opposed the inclusion of the book in the library expressed a desire to have control over what their children read and to determine when it would be appropriate for them to be exposed to such material.

Arthur Flecker, a parent to a 13-year-old daughter, acknowledged the need for equal rights for both LGBTQ+ individuals and those who do not identify as such.

“We have rules and regulations to raise her how we want her to be raised. That’s what parents do,” said Flecker. “I don’t want the school board or the school doing that.”

After hearing parents express concern about how exposure to such material could influence a child’s choices and gender identity, Jo Swenson, a gender queer resident and former student at Bow High School who uses the pronouns they and them, said that is not how being queer works.

“I can say as somebody who did not have exposure to those stories, I was always queer and I just didn’t know it was okay,” said Swenson. “By and large people are not being peer pressured into being queer or being trans, not by books, not by peers, not by adults in their lives.”

Swenson said that while their lack of access to materials showing queerness in a positive light had no effect on their identity, it did have a significant impact on their mental health.

A few parents recommended that the school consider offering the book in a different format to address concerns about its content. One suggestion was to restrict access to the book and make it available only in a counselor’s office. Another idea was to create an edited version of the book without illustrations that were deemed unsuitable for a school library.

The school board has stated that if parents are not comfortable with their decision to retain this book on the shelves, they have the option to request the school to restrict access to this book or any other book for their child.

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