‘My Duty as a Parent’: Inside the Fight to Remove Sexualized Content From School Libraries

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‘I am sickened to think that there are books like this in any classroom of a middle school for any child to read’

Something on television caught the attention of Stacy Langton, a mother of six living in northern Virginia, when she was cooking dinner for her family in mid-September 2021.

“Write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom; write an X-rated Disney scenario,” the TV news segment showed prompts given to students of a writing class at a public high school in Hudson, Ohio.

“What the heck is going on!” Langton said to herself.

All her children went to Catholic schools before high school, so she didn’t have much experience with public schools. Her eldest son had just started 11th grade at a public high school in Fairfax County in August 2021. A year earlier, he had started at this same high school but switched to a private school partway through the year to avoid remote learning policies brought about by the pandemic.

Langton had hoped that 2021–22 would be his first normal high school year since the pandemic.

But what she saw on television was hardly normal. Alarmed, she started paying more attention to the public school systems and learned about the so-called porn books parents spoke about at school board meetings in other counties across the United States. From news about a school board meeting in Texas, Langton heard of the book “Lawn Boy” for the first time. Then she learned about “Gender Queer” through online videos of speeches at other school board meetings.

In these videos, parents who read excerpts of these two books said they were concerned about the obscene and pedophilic material readily available to their children in middle and high schools.

Langton wanted to verify these claims herself, so she decided to take action.

She asked her son to bring the school laptop and check the library catalog. “Boom, the books [“Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy”] came right up,” said Langton. She told her son, “Let’s check these out tomorrow.”

She read the two books cover to cover.

“I was wrecked for a day. I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Langton told The Epoch Times.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel with cartoon-style pictures, tells the story of nonbinary author Maia Kobabe from adolescence to adulthood. The book shows an image of a pedophilic act. “Lawn Boy,” a young adult novel by Jonathan Evison, contains an explicit description of a sexual act between two minors. According to Evison, the scene was about an adult man recalling a sexual encounter when he was in fourth grade with another fourth grader.

Both books were chosen to receive the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which are given to 10 books annually with “special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

“You’re just sitting there going: What if your 12-year-old stumbles across this? You can’t unsee it,” she said, referring to the pictures in the cartoon-style graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

By Terri Wu

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