Sex ed book pulled from Cherry Creek school libraries after parent complaint

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AURORA | A sex education book has been removed from circulation in Cherry Creek School District libraries following a parent complaint that prompted an internal review of three books.

“This was a decision that we take very seriously because we want our libraries to have a robust selection of materials and perspectives about lived experiences,” Cherry Creek spokesperson Lauren Snell said.

The district reviewed “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being a Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Flamer” by Mike Curato and ultimately decided to remove “Let’s Talk About It” from district libraries, Snell confirmed to The Sentinel Wednesday.

According to the district this is the only removal request that has happened so far this school year, a time in which school and public libraries across the nation have faced an unprecedented number of attempts to have books removed.

The books in question have been the subject of numerous removal attempts at school districts across the country this year, according to news reports.

Published last year, “Let’s Talk About It” is an illustrated sex education guide aimed at a young adult audience and includes information about LGBTQ identity. According to the publisher, the book covers “relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education” and other topics.

During public comment at the Cherry Creek board of education’s Sept. 12 meeting, a speaker named Sarah King, who identified herself as the parent of four students in the district, said the book has been temporarily removed from a school library at her request, stating that she believed it was obscene and not appropriate for children.

“I want to express my utter shock and despair that this book was in a school library in the first place,” King said. 

In the book, she said “you will find things that are reserved for the darkest corners of the internet and would be shocking to the decent adults of this community, much less children.”

She also expressed frustration that “Gender Queer” and “Flamer” were available in school libraries. She said that the book promoted obscenity with drawings and descriptions of “vile and depraved acts” and listed a series of specific page numbers that had inappropriate content.

“These books sexualize children and destroy their innocence,” King said.

“Let’s Talk About It” contains anatomical drawings of genitalia as well as several illustrations of people engaging in sexual activity. It also includes frank discussions of sex and relationships and topics including sexting, pornography, gender expression and sexual identity, STDs and birth control.

“Gender Queer” is an illustrated memoir that discusses the author’s adolescence and experience of coming out as nonbinary (someone who identifies as being neither a man or a woman). It includes several sexually explicit illustrations, according to news reports. “Flamer” is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a gay teenage boy struggling with his identity due to bullying and homophobia.

Following King’s complaint, the books underwent a review process conducted by library media specialists and administrators at the district and school level, during which time the book were not be available to be checked out, Snell said.

“I can confirm that we temporarily removed the book referenced by the mom from the library for review based on Board of Education Policy IJL,” a district statement provided to The Sentinel read. “As always, families can have individual conversations with their children about the library materials they check out.”

The district’s policy regarding library materials selection, which was adopted and last revised in 1998, states that library media specialists should assess collections regularly and that criteria for removing materials includes limited circulation, out-of-date or inaccurate information and “inappropriate content for the age, maturity of the intended audience, which may include explicit adult or sexual content or extreme violence,” among other factors.

“The Board of Education of the Cherry Creek School District maintains that the purpose of education is, in part, to develop within students the capacity to reason, to form decisions based on intelligent analysis, to communicate, and to live compassionately with one another,” the policy states. “To meet these educational goals, the Board encourages the selection of a wide range of media on all levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal, and different points of view. The Board of Education supports the principles of intellectual and academic freedom.”

The policy says that parents, teachers and students are encouraged to reach out to library staff directly if they have concerns about any specific materials.

Ultimately, Snell said the district’s team decided to keep “Flamer” and “Gender Queer” on shelves and remove “Let’s Talk About It” because it included content that was inappropriate for young people and contained some material about sexting that the district was worried could promote illegal behavior.

One of the book’s chapters is focused around sexting, and discusses the etiquette, legality and internet safety facets of exchanging naked photos with another person.

While the book generally takes a positive stance on sexting, it also explicitly states that exchanging nude images of a minor is illegal and should not be done by anyone under 18.

“As exciting as sexting is, there are serious legal consequences for sharing naked photos of folks under eighteen, even if the photos are of you and you’re sharing them with someone who’s the same age,” the book said.

“Let’s Talk About It” was previously on shelves in the libraries at Eaglecrest and Cherokee Trail high schools but according to district records had not been checked out, Snell said. Reader interest is one of the factors that go into determining what material to include on shelves.

Although the book is no longer in circulation, Snell said that students will not be prohibited from bringing their own copies of the book onto school grounds or teachers from discussing excerpts of the book in class.

Snell said that the decision to remove the book was not made lightly.

“Let’s Talk About It,” “Gender Queer” and “Flamer” have all been heavy targets of censorship in recent months due to the fact that they contain some sexually explicit illustrations and LGBTQ content.

Last month, “Let’s Talk About It” was removed from the young adults section of a Valley City, N.D. library due to concerns about its explicit content, according to the Valley City Times Record

“I’m not into book banning, but I believe that some children shouldn’t see this … this is definitely not what I’d want an 11-year-old to see,” Vicky Lovell, county commissioner, said in the article.

A recent report from free speech organization PEN America found that from July 2021 to June 2022 there were over 2,500 instances of individual books being banned in schools across the U.S. 

The majority of attempts to ban books were being led by organized political groups, PEN said, of which the organization identified more than 50.

“Many Americans may conceive of challenges to books in schools in terms of reactive parents, or those simply concerned after thumbing through a paperback in their child’s knapsack or hearing a surprising question about a novel raised by their child at the dinner table,” the report said. “However, the large majority of book bans underway today are not spontaneous, organic expressions of citizen concern. Rather, they reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy organizations that have made demanding censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission.”

Over 40% of banned books had LGBTQ themes or characters, and 40% featured main or secondary characters of color, the report said. Another 22% included sexual content.

In an email, LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado executive director Nadine Bridges said that attempts to censor books containing LGBTQ content contributes to a culture of isolation for LGBTQ young people at a time in their life when many of them are struggling to determine who they are.

“When books that represent these students’ identities are censored, it sends a harmful message that there is something inherently wrong or shameful about them. It generates messages of exclusion and invalidation to their classmates,” Bridges said.

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Kelly White
Kelly White
2 months ago

These days kids know more than the teachers

Milton D Hayman
Milton D Hayman
2 months ago
Reply to  Kelly White

Kids know more than the teachers and parents and school
administrators. Cherry Creek is sending a message that sex is
“obscene”.What is obscene about various
types of sexual acts between consenting adults.Sex between consenting adults is
an act of love and giving. Cherry Creek really dropped the ball
by letting one person dictate what should be read!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

So one person can have books removed? And in today’s cancel culture, we certainly can’t have any books that mention the ‘S’ word or that talks about gays. But here’s the thing: If you don’t want your kids reading certain books, don’t allow them to do so.

Don
Don
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

You can’t even keep your logic straight from comment to comment. So below, this all doesn’t matter because kids might have a smartphone and parents can’t stop them, but they can definitely stop them from reading a book when the kid is at school, somehow? Man, life inside a lefty’s head must be so confusing. Always lost and confused, your opinion changing from minute to minute. Scary stuff.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago
Reply to  Don

when you have nothing factual or rational to add…

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  Don

What does being a “lefty” have to do with this?

Don
Don
2 months ago

It’s a illustrated porno book targeting kids. It should have never been allowed in the school library to begin with. Wake up, parents. Google the book and go to the images search results.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Don

I wonder if you read it.

Don
Don
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

I mean have you just given PornHub a chance? There might be so much good hiding under the surface. You just don’t even know! What a stupid comment.

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  Don

That all you got? Ad hominem attacks? Weak.

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  Don

I have read it. Nothing in there that every SINGLE person on the planet doesn’t have hanging between their legs. Teenagers have questions, this book has non-judgmental, rational answers. If parents were this open and honest with their kids about stuff they’ll self-discover if not guided properly the world would be a better place.

tim lusk
tim lusk
2 months ago

It is a sad day when a few think that they speak for the whole.

Paul
Paul
2 months ago

Today’s Right is a scourge on this nation.

Don
Don
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

If pornos aren’t available in the kids library, what will we do?!?!

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  Don

weak.

Susan
Susan
2 months ago

Shame on Cherry Creek SD. This is just another example of their ineffectiveness to actually put kids first or to abide by the First Amendment. It’s been happening for a while now.  They make their own rules. Of course, now that kids know the book is banned, everyone will read it.  I could try to reach out to the school board but that always has been a waste of my time. No one has ever responded to my calls or emails.  I hope there isn’t another mill levy in the works they want us to support…..

Sue Smith
Sue Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Susan, the book went through the district required process with the librarians and the parent who filed the complaint at the table. As I stated in my comment above, if you are upset that the Book was pulled from circulation, then show up and speak up.

Susan Smith
Susan Smith
2 months ago

It is a small group who are making the most noise. But they make a lot of it! Those parents who don’t want this group to make decisions for the many need to speak up and show up at the BOE meetings every month. Not only is this group of parents going after books they are also going after the teachers in the district verbally at the BOE meetings and individually at the schools that their students attend. CCSD won’t have any teachers left if the abuse by parents continues.

Tammy Johnson
Tammy Johnson
2 months ago

If a parent does not want their child to read that book then they should inform their child not to check it out. It should not be removed so that others can have access to it. One parent’s objection should not take away everyone else’s right to access that book. If you don’t like a television show do you make them take it off of the air? The mature and proper way to handle these situations is to make a choice for yourself and your children, but not to force your choices on someone else. Don’t read the book, don’t watch the television show. It is that simple.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Tammy Johnson

How about this: Instead of removing a book (because, after all, a library is a place for books!), how about having a designation for certain books that would necessitate a child’s having to have parental permission before checking it out? Anything else leaves censorship up to the self-appointed moral police, who certainly do not speak for the majority.

But here’s the thing: Whatever a book depicts, I can guarantee kids have seen in other reading materials and places. Have we all really forgotten what it was like when we were kids?

Kelly White
Kelly White
2 months ago

Who needs books when they have the Internet

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Kelly White

And this, too. Kids can view all the porn they so desire and today, parents aren’t monitoring their activity.

Don
Don
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

For sure Joe, let’s put up some porn billboards! Brilliant.

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  Don

weak.

J Walter
J Walter
2 months ago

OK…I’m on BOTH sides of this quandary, and here’s why: Yes, some middle school kids already know more than parents wish, but there are probably lots whose parents want them “in the dark,” which is way more dangerous. The described book does sound like a manual to follow, which creeps me out, but there has to be some venue for age-appropriate education. In the late-sixties Oklahoma, as a high school junior, my mother refused to sign a permission slip for me to see a film that included childbirth. (It was for girls only.) She said it would scare me. Duh.
Perhaps we could have parents, educators, and appropriate counseling professionals come together and come up with levels of materials that would include “available on the shelf,” and “available with parental permission (for use with parents.)”
How about coming together for good, instead of just being mad and righteous?

Sue Smith
Sue Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  J Walter

The process, outlined in BOE policy, requires that the principal, librarian, a teacher and the parent who made the complaint all get together and make the determination. The book was not banned. It was removed from circulation.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  J Walter

I like it! But what you are describing is common sense and collaboration, and people aren’t of such a mindset these days.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
2 months ago

Hmmm, This book sounds interesting, I am always looking for books to leave in the bathroom. I guess the description Depraved caught my eye.. yes yes yes…yes

Gary
Gary
2 months ago

Banning a book is the best way to tell kids what is worth reading!

Sue Smith
Sue Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Gary

It was not banned. It was removed from circulation based on the recommendation from a committee that reviewed the parent’s concern that had the principal, librarian, a teacher and the parent who made the complaint on the committee.

Milton D Hayman
Milton D Hayman
2 months ago
Reply to  Sue Smith

They removed a book
from circulation that had never been checked out! Kids
get all the sex education they want
with there electronic
devices so why would
you even expect them
to read.The books
in question are
a much better alternative to porn!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

Too-many Karens and Brandons trying to control everyone else’s lives.

Robert J Garcia
Robert J Garcia
2 months ago

You tell me my kid can’t read a book? We need to make certain every kid has the ability to read it.

Don
Don
2 months ago

Hey congrats, this is why our nation is crumbling and no one has any moral standard anymore.

FactsOverFeelings
FactsOverFeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Don

Can’t give kids information, gotta keep ’em dumb or they might become dirty liberals!

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago

Beginning of the end in confidence that the Cherry Creek School system believes in creating and trusting a world of democratic access to the full range of ideas and information in teaching our children and for and including the interests and needs of all children, and bows to ignorant parents and others who want to use books/ideas/children as a political pawn, where even one person can dictate freedom of access to ideas to all the rest.

dee-dee
1 month ago

Good grief, really? Im fairly liberal but the image shown in this article that tells me it’s time to pull the plug is ‘if you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a requested dirty picture”… what the hell. This is suppoed to be ‘lucky’? What about real intimacy in relationships… and those who don’t get ‘dirty’ pictures are unlucky? The pages shown in this article that represent what the book is about is a do and don’t of sexting, and are not an education.

MarkT
MarkT
19 days ago
Reply to  dee-dee

Have you read the book? I have. There’s a lot more to it than what you put forth. There’s a lot of information that most kids WON’T get from their parents in there that will help keep them informed and safe. Give kids credit, they’re a lot smarter than we think and, in the face of censorship, a lot sneakier than we think as well. Honesty is the best policy, not covering their eyes.

Rino
4 days ago

Rino