Update: Principals’ Decision on Polarizing Books


Photo by Katherine Schlueter.

All four District 87 principals have chosen to keep Gender Queer: A Memoir and All Boys Aren’t Blue on school library shelves, despite vocal parents’ protests about some of the content of these novels. 

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe is a graphic novel that focuses on the transgender experience and has garnered outrage from some parents for a depiction of oral sex and other images. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is a young adult memoir about growing up black and queer and has likewise received backlash for including descriptions of sexual encounters, abuse, racial slurs, and profanity. 

The two novels in question can be found at many public and school libraries in the area, have both received many literary accolades, and were chosen in accordance with the district policy of selecting library materials. 

Over the past few months, several parents across the district raised concerns over the more mature subject matter in these books and met with their respective librarians and principals to discuss their grievances. 

Initially, the principals decided to keep the titles in January, but a few parents appealed that decision. In response, the district formed the Ad Hoc Committee for Reconsidering Library Materials. It comprised all four Glenbard principals, librarians from each school, two district office members, and four community members from each building. 

Before meeting, the committee also reviewed 170 statements received from the community via a special email account to discern public opinion. Overall, 75 percent of them favored keeping the books. 

On March 8, the committee met and invited eight parent complainants, allowing them ten minutes each to express their concerns. They met again on March 21 to listen to presentations given by the school librarians and the District 87 Attorney. 

During the committee’s their final meeting on April 10, they deliberated and the 14 voting members unanimously recommended that principals retain the titles in school libraries.

A major concern for parents was that parts of these texts were too sexually explicit for high schoolers. The Ad Hoc Committee has determined that these books meet the educational guidelines of the district and do not contain pornography of any kind.

In a joint letter to the superintendent, the Glenbard principals stated that “the author’s intent was to reflect personal experiences” and they “do not see that either book meets the legal standards for obscenity or pornography.” 

Glenbard parents retain the right to restrict library materials for their children, making it so they are unable to check out specific titles from the school library.

According to the American Library Association, Gender Queer is the most banned book of the 2021-2022 school year, with All Boys Aren’t Blue ranked third. 

District 87 has decided to go against these censorship trends and, as the Ad Hoc committee stated in their recommendation, commit to having libraries that “act as safe places, where students are supported, and where their diverse needs, learning styles and values are reflected within library materials.” 

Click here to read an earlier article about this subject