by Briana Sisler ‘24
Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) was removed from MCPS libraries on October 11, the continuation of a disheartening trend throughout the country. Many LGBTQ+ books have been requested to be removed from schools, and in MCPS parents have requested the ability to opt their children out of reading these books.
There are several common reasons why LGBTQ+ books have been challenged, but the main one that parents and organizations state for challenging these books is due to their ‘sexual’ or ‘inappropriate’ nature. Many books targeted towards teenagers and older audiences, like Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts), which discuss topics of sex in the form of advice columns, are continually bashed because they try to inform LGBTQ+ teens on how to stay safe. Similarly to sex education, allowing teens a wide variety of books that can show them healthy sexual interactions for all different types of relationships can help them find and maintain healthy relationships in their own life. LGBTQ+ teens are already at higher risks of depression and suicide compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers, and removing books that can help them through troubling times will do the opposite of help.
While some parents find numerous depictions of sex off-putting and feel genuine concern, there are still a number of parents that challenge LGBTQ+ books solely because of their subject matter. Homophobia and transphobia are underlying reasons for why LGBTQ+ books are heavily scrutinized. Some parents fear that after their children read a diverse and inclusive book they will become influenced and join the LGBTQ+ community. However, there is no research to back up that idea. Exposing children and teens to the LGBTQ+ community will not make them any more or less likely to identify as part of the community.
Books in the library are not the only ones being censored, and books included as part of the curriculum to be read in class have also been targeted. In MCPS three parents have recently sued the school board over several LGBTQ+ children’s books in the curriculum stating that for religious reasons they don’t want their children to be reading the texts. These three parents were specifically suing over the policy change from MCPS that, according to the Revised Message Regarding the Use of Inclusive Texts released by MCPS, stated that “Students and families may not choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials, other than ‘Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction’ which is specifically permitted by Maryland law”. The parents have argued that it is unconstitutional to prevent people from opting their children out of reading books like Pride Puppy!, Love Violet, and Born Ready The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland sided with the school board but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is expected to make its own decision within the coming months.
These parents have also questioned the book selection process in MCPS; however, MCPS has an inclusive system that allows everyone to be involved in the book selection process. In order to add new books and textbooks in MCPS, media specialists and library media professional staff review the books before they are placed on a 30-day shelf where parents, organizations, students, and teachers have the ability to review them and submit a complaint. The Database of Accountable Evaluations is where all the evaluations are stored. In addition, MCPS compiles all media located in each individual school library in the Destiny Library Manager.
Choosing to shelter children from the diversity that exists all around in the world today is more devastating than allowing a child to read a book that says the word drag queen. Attempting to stifle the expression of many young children and teens not only throughout MCPS but throughout the country is telling LGBTQ+ youth that people are ashamed of them. Preventing people from being able to read books with these characters is demoralizing and not helping the already catastrophic depression and suicide rates among the LGBTQ+ youth.