Kent School District issues statement as LGBTQ library books are under fire

Some believe the books are too sexually explicit for middle school, but others decry library censorship.

After hearing concern from parents regarding two books in a Kent Middle School library, the Kent School District says the children’s literature will be under review by the Instructional Materials Committee until a decision can be made that follows “all related curriculum and instructional materials, policies and procedures” on whether to remove the books.

According to the district, a middle school student originally challenged the appropriateness of two books based on concerns of sexually explicit content. The books in question, “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts),” by Lev A.C. Rosen, and “If I Was Your Girl,” by Meredith Russo, both notably feature LGBTQ characters.

During a Kent School Board meeting on Jan. 26, many concerned parents and residents gave public comments on the issue. Some supported the principal of Cedar Heights Middle School and her decision to temporarily remove one of the books after a student raised issue with the sexually explicit content in the literature, while others found issue with the unilateral way in which a school administrator was able to “censor” content in a public library protected by the First Amendment.

Others were worried that to remove these books would be to remove some of the only literary representation that LGBTQ students may be able to find in school libraries, only furthering their own marginalization.

Kent School District’s statement claimed these books would still be available for students while the literature is being reviewed by the Instructional Materials Committee. KSD said that in selecting educational materials, staff are cautioned to preview such materials thoroughly and to give due consideration to the maturity level of students; appropriateness of language; bias against racial, gender, ethnic, or other social groups; the degree of violence, nudity, or sexual explicitness; and other sensitive issues.

“While there has been media coverage and public discussion focused on the adults involved and the policy and procedure, as a district our foremost concern is for the student at the heart of the matter,” said Interim Superintendent Israel Vela in the written statement. “Now we follow the process, and ultimately, I trust in my staff, our Instructional Materials Committee, and our school board to see the book challenges through and follow board policies and procedures to make the decision that is in the best interest of all of our students.”