NJ High School Board votes against recommendation to ban LGBTQ+ book
North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional School District School Board adopted resolutions at its meeting on Tuesday which will keep five LGBTQ+ on the shelves of its libraries.
The council, since September, heard from parents and community members seeking to ban five LGBTQ+ books: “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson and “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechel. Others spoke out against the ban.
The neighborhood book commission read and rated each book before voting 4-2 to recommend that “This Book Is Gay” be removed from the shelves, stating that it lacked proper citations, presented unverified facts, and questioned its relevance for high school students. He did not vote to recommend deletion of the other four books.
The board of education voted 7 to 2 against a resolution to remove “This book is gay” from library shelves. The committee also passed four resolutions that will keep the other four LGBTQ+ books on the shelves.
Board members Debra Bonomi, Glen Farbanish, Daniel Spanton, Robert Kirchberger, Bryan Chapman, Rion Hoffmann, and board chair Jessica Viotto voted against the resolution to ban “This Book Is Gay.” Council members John Melick and Roger Straight voted in favor while three council members, Tara Marie Hintz, Shelly Crisologo and Kimberly Solino, abstained, saying they did not have enough information to vote.
No one spoke at the public part of Tuesday’s meeting in favor of banning the books. Some 55 people attended the virtual meeting.
Max Moore, a transgender student in the district, said he read “This Book Is Gay” and didn’t understand why the book’s committee deemed it too explicit for students.
“‘This book is gay’ is more or less gay sex education,” Moore said. “He does an amazing job filling in the gaps that the school curriculum fails to fill in sex education. We spoke frankly and openly about wet dreams and masturbation with language always centered on straight students.
“If the board were willing to set up a committee to withdraw this book, I challenge the board to convene a committee to write a sex education curriculum for gay students.”
Fluent student Jude Gepp says ‘This Book is Gay’ received the 2018 Garden State Teen Book Award and was nominated on Booklist’s Top 10 books for LGBTQ+ youth in 2015.
“Apparently the (book) committee is considered to have a lot of imagination, as it is recommended that this learning opportunity for the nearly 2,500 student readers in the district be cut,” Gepp said. “How did I, an ignorant youngster, come across this information? I used the tools this district has so generously provided, our library research databases. Thank you for these resources.
Martha Hickson, librarian at North Hunterdon Regional Secondary School, said the committee’s report lacked facts to support the proposed ban.
“In the absence of data from your review board, you should know some numbers first,” Hickson said. “The district’s copies of ‘This Book is Gay’ have been viewed 31 times since 2015, more than once in each rating period.
“In comparison, ‘Everything, Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, a best-selling novel which arrived the same year, has circulated only 19 times. The popularity of this book…demonstrates students’ interest in and need for the information.
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Vashti Harris can be contacted at [email protected]