Appeal filed to remove controversial books from Jay high school library

LIVERMORE — An appeal to remove two controversial books from the Spruce Mountain High School library will be held Nov. 10 by the Regional School Unit 73 board of directors.

The decision was announced at Thursday night’s board meeting.

A five-member committee appointed by Superintendent Scott Albert to review “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, about the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, about race relations in the United States, recommended the books remain in the library.

According to the district’s policy on selecting instructional and library-media material, the next step is to hear the appeal of the committee’s decision. It is scheduled for 6 pm at the high school in Jay.

At Thursday’s meeting, Pamela Rangel of Jay said she, her husband and three others, whom she did not name, filed a formal challenge to having “Gender Queer: A Memoir” in the library.

“I am here to talk about the book ‘Gender Queer,'” she said. “I feel that people are looking at this book through the lens of how they feel about gender identity, whether they are on one side or the other. I want to tell you that I am looking at this book in one way. It is pornography and that is a deal-breaker for me.

“Pornography should not be in our schools,” she said. “It’s never been in our schools in the past and it shouldn’t be now.”

Rangel held up her cellphone that showed pictures of people engaged in a sexual act. “This is a vulgar thing to have in a high school library.”

“This is not right, this should not be in a high school library, it should not be in any public library,” she said. “No matter how you feel one way or the other, that is irrelevant. This book has this in it. No matter what else the book says or shows or what minority it gives voice to, this is inappropriate.”

Rangel said seeing the picture could be traumatic for some children.

Information on who is appealing “White Fragility” was not immediately available.

After complaints were made about both books, Albert advised the board Sept. 8 that he started the process for handling them.

After he reviewed the mandatory written complaint, he appointed high school Principal TJ Plourde, district Librarian Amy Ryder, Unified Arts Department Head Amanda Pelkey, Social Studies Department Head Kyle Mclellan and community member Vicki McLeod to review the books. They sent their written recommendation to him, stating that the books should stay in the library, which they must until the board makes its decision.

Albert also informed the complainants of the committee’s recommendation, per the policy.

According to the policy, the board must: review the materials fully and objectively; evaluate the needs and interest of students, school, curriculum and community; consider differing opinions; and review them in light of the criteria for initial selection and purpose. The board is to announce its decision in writing not later than the end of its next regular meeting after the appeal hearing.

The district, which includes Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls, is not the only one in the area to receive complaints about “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” In August, directors of Regional School Unit 56 based in Dixfield voted 7-2 to remove it from the Dirigo High School library.


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