JCPS appeals board holds hearing on controversial ‘Gender Queer’ memoir

It’s an issue that school districts are talking about in states across the country. The battle has found its way to JCPS.
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 3:09 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s an issue that school districts are talking about in states across the country - whether or not to ban a graphic memoir, “Gender Queer,” from high school library shelves.

The battle has found its way to JCPS. Thursday, a School-Based Decision Making Council appeals board held a hearing that was attended by dozens of parents, many who want the book pulled from schools.

Those advocating for the book say that it sparks conversation and helps marginalized kids find their identity. Those against it say that it’s porn, it’s graphic, it’s sexual and has nothing to do with gay or straight education.

According to a description, the book is a 2019 graphic memoir complete with illustrations. It talks about the author’s “journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately identifying as being outside of the gender binary.”

Thursday, each side of the issue had a representative give a 15 minute presentation to the appeals board. Then, the board asked questions for another 15 minutes.

Representing parents who want the book removed, was parent Miranda Stovall and her attorney.

“I believe that JCPS educators should aid in the process of protecting children from obscene pornographic content, regardless of a child’s sexual identity or orientation - especially without parental knowledge or consent,” Stovall said. “I looked up kink.com. And the first thing that comes up is pick your porn, straight or gay. So this book literally has the potential to lead kids as young as 14 years old to porn on the internet.”

Stovall’s attorney told the appeals board that allowing the book into schools is illegal.

“We have a law that makes this type of material a crime to distribute to minors,” he said. “Even if the distribution of porn to children wasn’t a crime under Kentucky law, under what scenario would it be ok for a public school to do that?”

On the other side, presenting in favor of allowing the book to remain in schools, was Lynn Reynolds, a lifetime educator and the executive director of library media services.

“Enlightenment allows for conversations to happen, particularly for children, and in this book, a person that was struggling to find identity,” Reynolds said. “If you restrict it, you are taking away opportunities for a child to live, find his space, find his voice, and his purpose.”

Reynolds told the board that what is considered obscene by some, has literary value to others-- and that’s the standard of why a book is allowed in a school library.

“‘Gender Queer’ impacts readers and allows them to be humanized, those that are marginalized,” Reynolds said.

That board will issue a written decision about the case in the next 60 days.

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