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Oregon schools ban pupils from reading competition over book about a transgender child

Jess Glass May 7, 2018

(Photo: Alex Gino)

An Oregon school district has banned their pupils from taking part in a statewide reading competition because the list of books includes one about a trans child.

Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) is a competition where students read from a chosen list of books, before answering questions in a quiz-show style competition over a series of local, district and eventually statewide rounds.

One of the books selected for next year’s competition is George, a book by genderqueer author Alex Gino about a 10-year-old trans girl who wants to play Charlotte in her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web.

Despite the fact the book was written for 10-year-olds, there has been a significant backlash to the inclusion of the story in the category for eight to 11-year-olds.

(Getty)

Hermiston School District, which oversees over 5,000 students and is one of the largest districts in the state, recently decided to prevent its pupils from competing outside of the district level.

District spokesperson Maria Duron told The Oregonian that the district was not entering the wider competition as the book “was not appropriate for students.”

The Tigard-Tualatin school district is also reviewing the book to see whether it wants to take similar actions.

Related: Donald Trump faces silent protest from US Teacher of the Year over trans rights

Courtney Snyder, the Title Chair of Oregon Battle of the Books, said that the actions of the district were “sad and alarming.”

(Photo: BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)

“I can’t speak for the whole committee when I say this but it’s sad and kind of alarming that instead of letting parents choose to let their students participate or not, or even read all the books on the list or not, Hermiston is taking that choice away from them,” Snyder said.

The OBOB website states that appropriate books which meet their strict nomination criteria will not be avoided “in an effort to avoid controversy with parents.”

The competition also holds that pupils do not have to read all of the stories on the list, and that the choice of books is voluntary.

(Photo: Creative Commons)

OBOB said in a statement that they were listening to concerns, but the book would remain.

Admin chair of the competition Linda Fukasawa wrote: “Please know that your concerns are taken seriously.

George will remain on the 2018-19 list as it went through the entire title selection process, including the time for public feedback, met the board’s criteria, and was chosen by the title selection committee.”

Campaign group One Million Moms has hit out at the book for its positive stance towards transgender people, as part of a wider criticism of pro-LGBT children’s books.

In a statement about George, the group said: “Scholastic does not have our children’s best interests at heart. Tell Scholastic to stop harming children.”

In January, the infamous self-appointed TV censors, who despite their name have just 3,722 mostly male Twitter followers, launched a campaign targeting publisher Scholastic Inc.

(Photo: Creative Commons)

As well as George, the group took exception to Scholastic promoting books and reading lists aimed at diverse families, including “Books for Two-Mommy Families” and “Great books for Two-Dad Families”.

In a message to supporters, 1MM accused Scholastic of “using its platform to promote pro-homosexual and pro-transgender books for children”.

A pre-written email that 1MM encourages supporters to send says: “As a parent and member of OneMillionMoms.com, I am urging you to please discontinue publishing and promoting pro-homosexual and pro-transgender books for children.

“Picture books that deliberately target young children with the idea that a biological boy can become a girl are false, harmful, and confusing. I will not support a company that purposefully confuses children.”

It continues: “Scholastic is attempting to normalize gender dysphoria, which is a mental disorder that requires psychological help and not praise.”

Scholastic has not yet responded to 1MM.

More: books, children's books, Education, LGBT friendly books, Oregon, reading, Trans, US, US

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