Home Graphic novel Spring Branch ISD bans graphic novel after parent complains about transgender character

Spring Branch ISD bans graphic novel after parent complains about transgender character

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Spring Branch ISD this week banned a children’s graphic novel that features a transgender character from all of its elementary school libraries after a parent filed a complaint about it.

“The Breakaways,” which follows a diverse group of eighth graders playing football, was first challenged when a parent at Wilchester Elementary School complained that it was available in the library at the school. school, according to a letter from the school principal.

The move to ban “The Breakaways” from SBISD elementary schools comes as the Texas legislature re-examines a bill that would ban transgender student-athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identities.

The move also follows an outcry at Katy ISD over the cancellation of an event that allegedly featured the author of a series of graphic novels that a small group of parents say promote critical theory of race and Marxism. The District has withdrawn the Year 6 series from acclaimed black author Jerry Craft while it assesses whether it will license the books into its libraries and program in the future.

A committee of two librarians, two teachers and an administrator reviewed the book and recommended that the district be banned from all elementary school libraries, district spokesman Terry Abbott said. The ban went into effect this week.

“The book includes children of all kinds of identities to reflect the world around us,” said Cathy G. Johnson, acclaimed book author, said Wednesday. “There is a transgender student that comes out in the book. He is just one of the many characters that make up my book, as well as one of the identities that make up the world.

Johnson, winner of the 2020 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Minicomic, said this was not the first time she has been contacted about her book under review, but it is the first time that she knows that it is prohibited in elementary school libraries.

“As a teacher and as a person who identifies me as gay, it’s not surprising and it’s sad,” she said. “It’s something we have to fight against.

The review committee ruled that the book, which was previously available at two elementary schools in the district, was “not suitable for age or its intended educational use,” according to an emailed statement from the district. .

Johnson said the target age range for the book is 8 to 14 years old.

“In accordance with SBISD policy, librarians use their expertise to select books and often consult library journals in order to keep libraries up to date,” the statement read. “SBISD will continue to follow its policies on the selection of educational materials. “

According to the official policy of Spring Branch ISD, library books should be selected to “help students become aware of our pluralistic society” and to “present various aspects of controversial issues”.

The literature review policy states that “no disputed educational material should be removed solely for the ideas expressed therein.” Any parent, student, employee or resident of the district can formally challenge an educational resource “on the basis of its relevance,” the policy says.

Austin Ruiz, communications and marketing manager for the Montrose Center, a Houston-based nonprofit that supports the LGBTQ + community, said talking about gender identity and sexual orientation was not inherently a discussion of inappropriate sexuality for children.

“Gender identity doesn’t have to do with who you’re attracted to,” he said.

Ruiz also takes issue with the argument that discussing such topics with elementary school students is inappropriate, adding “These are things that many children are already aware of.”

Advocates say positive portrayals of transgender and other LGBTQ + youth in the media can be lifesavers for children who face a greater risk of bullying and violence in school, as well as higher suicide rates.

According to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control, 43 percent of transgender youth in the United States have been bullied in their schools, compared to 7 percent of cisgender youth. Almost 30 percent of transgender children have attempted suicide, compared to 7 percent of cisgender youth.

“It’s important for young people… to see literature that they can read and say, ‘This is something I identify with and it’s normal and normal and it’s not a bad thing. ”Ruiz said. “It could make the difference between them who continue or unfortunately try to harm each other.

Johnson said when she was growing up there weren’t many books she could find that reflected her experience. She said she cherished the little she found.

“I appreciate being able to continue on this path as an author and educator by creating work that is representative of all identities,” she said. “Research shows that representation helps students do better in school and achieve more. “

Ruiz said that work like Johnson’s can also help teach heterosexual and cisgender students the empathy and acceptance of their peers who have different experiences.

“The main takeaway book (Johnson) conveys is that everyone in the story is trying their best and that they all come from different backgrounds,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all share the commonality of human experience and that’s what is important to remember.”

Johnson, speaking about children who could be harmed by the district’s decision, said she wanted them to know they are valued and accepted.

“There are people who love you and you will find them,” she said.

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