Michigan school district removes sexually explicit books after parents' outrage

Unsplash/Banter Snaps
Unsplash/Banter Snaps

A Michigan school district will reduce students' access to certain books in school libraries after parents, particularly those in the Muslim community, complained the materials were sexually explicit. 

Dearborn Public School officials announced Monday that the challenged books were reviewed under the district's Guidelines for the Selection and Review of Media Materials. The district intends to remove two books and limit access to others for high school students. 

As the district announced in a statement, the two books removed are Push by Sapphire, the story of a girl sexually abused by her father; and Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, an LGBT romance with sexually explicit content. 

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High schoolers in the district will be the only students with access to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, a book about a young girl watching over her family after she is raped and murdered. Likewise, the district pulled Eleanor and Park, a teenage romance story containing profanity and abuse, from middle school libraries but allowed it to stay on the shelves in high schools.

The district has yet to make a decision about All Boys Aren't Blue by Jason Reynolds and This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson. Both titles were previously available to students through the e-book service Sora. But the service is temporarily disabled for students while the district conducts its review. 

Another book, Flamer by Mike Curato, was not part of the initial books challenged by parents but has been deemed appropriate for high school-level students. A district mother cited a passage from the book during a Monday board, which included explicit language referring to male ejaculation. 

In a Thursday statement to The Christian Post, David Mustonen, director of communications for Dearborn Public Schools, said that the books in question were subject to review due to parents' concerns. 

"The Board of Education sets policy for the District but, like all school boards in the state, are not involved in day to day operations," Mustonen wrote. "The board did not vote or make any decision on these books, rather the outcome of the process determined the actions the district will take."

"If the parent who shared their concerns is not in agreement with the outcome of the Review Process they can ask that the books be part of a Book Challenge," Mustonen added.

"This would require a committee made up of nine people including staff, parents, and a student (with parent permission) to further review the book(s) and make a determination on if it should remain a part of the materials in our media centers."

The communications director stressed that parents can prevent students from checking out certain books, part of a new policy enacted in October in response to parent outrage. 

Parents can learn how to prevent their children from accessing certain materials through a new webpage called Media Material Guidelines and Parent Opt Out, according to the school district.

Parents and guardians can fill out a form if they wish to restrict the types of materials their child can check out. 

Parents can also contact a media specialist to challenge a specific book title if they are still concerned about their child having access to it. A dozen titles have been brought to media specialists' attention and are moving through the challenge process, according to the school district. 

"With roughly half a million books in our school libraries, we realize the likelihood that there could be a few books that were added over the years that parents and staff agree should not be there," Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko said. 

"However, we want to assure our parents that those books are few and far between and that, overall, our libraries provide a wide range of age-appropriate materials to encourage students to strengthen their academic skills and build a love of reading." 

The challenged titles represent 0.002% of the titles in the district's collection, which includes more than 300,000 titles and almost 500,000 books, according to the district.

Last month, parents in the town's Muslim community attended a school board meeting to voice objections to sexually explicit materials in school libraries. Many in the crowd held signs reading "Keep your dirty books in the closet" and "Protect the children." 

"We're going to be at every single meeting for the next 20 years if that's needed. I'm not going to allow these books to be read to our kids," one parent said during the meeting. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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