With a selection of books featuring LBGTQ+ characters and themes being under fire in the Kent School District, the American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved.
On June 6, the ACLU wrote a letter to the Kent School Board urging the directors to reverse the recent determination to remove “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)” by Lev A.C. Rosen, made by the district’s Instructional Materials Committee.
After an administrator reportedly unilaterally removed the book from Cedar Heights
Middle School library following a student’s complaint about the appropriateness of its content, the Kent School Board moved to subject the title to a review from the Instructional Materials Committee.
Recently the committee decided that “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)” was inappropriate for middle school readers due to its mature sexual themes and situations, but also because the book contains harmful hyper-sexualized stereotypes of homosexuality, their review wrote.
On June 8, the Kent School Board will examine the IMC’s review of the book and may vote to make further actions regarding whether this book and others like it can stay on school library shelves.
In the ACLU’s letter to the school board, they argue that banning books featuring themes and characters of specific minority groups runs counter to the District’s non-discrimination policy and is harmful to students.
“The District’s non-discrimination policy plainly states that the District does not discriminate
in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity,” the letter read. “The fact that the only book in question that is being removed under the guise of protecting youth from sexual themes happens to be an LGBTQ+ themed book is blatant discrimination and runs afoul of the District’s own policy.”
In the letter the ACLU of Washington argues that the issue is one of “life and death” for the most vulnerable individuals.
“LGBTQ+ youth are a particularly vulnerable population. A 2020 study published by the CDC found that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 and that LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers,” the ACLU cited. “Research conducted by The Trevor Project has consistently found that LGBTQ+ youth report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to LGBTQ+-affirming spaces, including schools.”
They wrote that they were concerned that lack of access to this kind of literature and resources for LGBTQ+ youth could force them to seek toxic misinformation.
In the letter, the ACLU said they would be monitoring the situation and would “determine how to proceed” following the school board’s June 8 meeting.
“The Constitution prohibits community members or school officials from imposing their own personal views and concerns upon an entire school community,” read the letter. “The Board has no basis for denying student access to a specific book based on the disagreement and discomfort of certain parents with the book’s content.”