In Canaan, 3 books with LGBTQ+ themes at the center of the controversy

In Canaan, 3 books with LGBTQ+ themes at the center of the controversy

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Karen Conroy, left, Superintendent of Essex North. Photo by Bob LoCicero

Since March, three books from the Canaan Schools library have become the center of controversy.

The Books – “How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual,” by Rebecca Burgess; “A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities”, by Mady G and Jules Zuckerberg; and “Heather Has Two Mommies”, by Lesléa Newman and Laura Cornell – all deal with issues of sexuality and gender identity.

In recent weeks, a group of parents and community members have sought to remove them from the library of pre-K-12 schools, citing what they consider to be inappropriate sexual material for children.

Although the school board voted unanimously on Monday to keep the books in the library, it’s unclear whether the decision will end the controversy.

“I’m not comfortable with this (decision),” said Ashlie Lynch, a Canaan mother who led the effort to remove the three texts. “A lot of people are very worried about them.”

LGBTQ+-themed books and events in schools have recently come under scrutiny amid renewed attention from conservative politicians and media. Across the country, parents and community members have been pushing school districts to remove books about LGBTQ+ issues from school libraries.

In the last couple of months or so, this trend has manifested itself in Canaan.

It all started in late March, when Lynch filed a lawsuit after her sixth-grade daughter sent her a picture of “A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities.”

This book and the other two were inappropriate for students, Lynch said, saying the books’ colorful illustrations might appeal to children too young to understand the content.

“I believe sexual orientation should not be taught or promoted to students in a school setting,” she wrote in her lawsuit against “How to Be Ace.”

In an interview, Lynch said the complaint “is not at all about me being against LGBTQ.”

“I’m not a monster,” she said. “I’m just a mother who thinks things like this should be discussed at home.”

In response to her complaint, school administrators convened a committee of teachers, parents, and administrators to discuss the books, as required by school rules.

The committee determined that “Heather Has Two Moms” was suitable for all age groups and that the “Quick and Easy Guide” should be kept in the high school section, where it was originally located. “How to Be an Ace,” however, should be removed from the library until the school board can make a final decision, the committee said.

Why committee members viewed this book differently was unclear.

Essex North Supervisory Union Superintendent Karen Conroy disagreed with the ruling on “How to Be Ace”.

“My recommendation would be to keep books available in our library to provide equitable resources to the appropriate age group regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background, and/or family income,” Conroy wrote to the Canaan School Board.

Lynch’s complaints, Conroy said in an interview, were the only ones she could remember from her nearly five-year tenure as superintendent.

“I know this is a national issue,” Conroy said. “And it was only a matter of time for him to find his way to our little geographic location.”

On Monday night, the board sided with Conroy, voting unanimously to keep “How to Be Ace” and the “Quick & Easy Guide” in the high school section of the library.

Although the school library is shared by all grade levels, younger students normally have to apply to access the high school section, Conroy said. School administrators discussed changing the layout of the library to control which books are visible to which students.

“I think we just need to do a complete review of our internal procedures,” she said.

In an interview, Laurent Giroux, the president of the school board, cited data on high levels of suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ youth.

“If we’re here to provide resources for students and children, and if this book can help a child realize that what they’re going through isn’t abnormal,” he said, “it’s worth it. sadness.”

But Lynch doesn’t think the battle over the books is over, she said, noting that she plans to write to her local newspaper, the News & Sentinel in Colebrook, New Hampshire, about the issue.

“I’m not done, no,” she said.

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