Virginia School System Returns Books It Pulled After Outcry

FAIRAX, Va.: A northern Virginia school system said Tuesday it was returning two books to library shelves, two months after they were pulled for a formal review prompted by complaints that they contained obscene sexual material.

Committees that included administrators, librarians, parents and students reviewed both Lawn Boy and Gender Queer and determined both to be appropriate for high school readers, Fairfax County Public Schools said in a news release.

Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys, according to the news release.

The committees unanimously recommended that the books remain available, and a top administrator made the final decision to reinstate them, the district said.

Gender Queer, an illustrated memoir by Maia Kobabe, contains explicit illustrations of oral sex and masturbation. The novel Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison contains graphic descriptions of sexual activity. Both books were previous winners of the American Library Associations Alex Awards, which each year recognize ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

Concern over the books came into focus in September after Stacy Langton, a parent in the Fairfax County school system, questioned the school board at a public meeting about the books availability in high school libraries. As she quoted from explicit passages in one book, a school board member interrupted her and chastised her for using explicit language.

The day after the meeting, the school system said it would be pulling the books for a detailed review.

Parental choice in education was a major issue in the Virginia governor’s race, and controversy over Gender Queer has since surfaced in a handful of states where Republican governors are gearing up for reelection next year.

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