Students speak against removing controversial books from Casper school libraries
Jan 10, 2022 Updated Jan 14, 2022
On Dec. 13, a parade of parents spoke to the Natrona County School District board, asking them to remove a small group of books they said were inappropriate for children because of their depictions of topics like sex work and trafficking, race, poverty, gender and sexuality. On Monday night, students took the mic.
Their message: don’t remove the books.
RJ Schoen, a recent Kelly Walsh graduate, said that reading one of the books in question, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, was the first time she saw her feelings as a transgender person represented on the page. Removing books like it from school libraries, she said, would send the message that people like her also didn’t belong there. Another queer student said the library, with its quiet atmosphere, diverse materials and friendly staff, is his favorite place on campus to study. “Books are extremely important...this helps students like me understand the world that much more, since we will someday have to navigate it like it is,” said Kelly Walsh student Allie Scroggins, “not a censored version.” Removing this set of books would also raise the question of where to stop, said KW student Alexis Collier, who likened that prospect to “cancelling” someone for a decades-old mistake.
Several parents and community members who were not present at the December meeting also spoke in favor of keeping the books on the shelves, some citing the district’s policy for reviewing library books. Others said that the responsibility for regulating what a student reads should fall on parents, not on a librarian or on the trustees. One student said that the district allows parents to call the library and place an alert on their student’s account that bars the child from checking out certain material if they wish. Besides “Gender Queer,” parents in December had cited other books including Ellen Hopkins’ “Traffick,” “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany Jackson and “You and Me and Him” by Kris Dinnison. One parent, Catherine Morris, said that she read each of the books and found that all but one, which she said had pornographic images, should be kept in school libraries. The parents bringing their concerns to the board, some said, had cherry-picked vulgar passages from the works when they should be taken as a whole. Anna Olson, whose three children attend Park Elementary School, said that she’s also glad that the library can be a place for her children to go with questions they aren’t comfortable bringing to their parents. A group of parents also spoke on the other side of the issue, a few citing the Bible or Christian morals. Some said that even if a student is barred from checking provocative material out of the library, they’re still able to read it. “Whether you agree with heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle, I personally would like our children to be exposed to healthy sexual life, not exposed to pedophilia ... we don’t want our children exposed to child sex trafficking relationships,” Mary Schmidt said.