Banning books in schools is not the answer | Commentary – Orlando Sentinel

On Tuesday a man came up before the Orange County Public Schools school board and read an excerpt from “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel about Maia Kobabe’s journey of identity.
The man was removed from the meeting because he encouraged a reaction from the chambers (which breaks the rules of public comment) with what was seen as explicit content from the book. Had he been allowed to continue, he would have run out of explicit content available in the book within a couple more sentences.
Among his audience was the parent responsible for bringing this book in front of the Board after her child checked it out from the Boone High School library. She is a member of the Moms For Liberty chapter here in Central Florida — a group that is for the individual rights and choices of parents, so long as they conform to the collective beliefs of their group. How patriotic.
Within hours of the meeting, the four copies that were available to OCPS high school students over 21 schools were removed from the media center without further consideration.
I borrowed the book through the Orange County Library, because I refuse to judge a book by a carefully selected excerpt without knowing the full intent of the author and the person selecting the excerpt.
This book is excellent. The last page brought tears to my eyes, as a parent hoping my children find their way in the world.
If the Board would have read the book with an open heart before encouraging its removal, as School Board chair Teresa Jacobs encouraged that night based solely on the small bit of content shared in chambers, they (hopefully) would have understood why it was available in OCPS high schools.
When I was 15, I played a 13-year-old who has sex with a relative stranger, becomes infatuated, constructs a plan to run away with him, then kills herself when the plan goes wrong. I was Juliet in our high school’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The director insisted that we should learn to understand the euphemisms and innuendo of the script, so we weren’t unintentionally comical with our portrayal — like a frustrated toddler screaming a profanity with almost perfect context, but zero understanding.
“Romeo and Juliet” is a classic. Rarely does a teen make it out of high school without being assigned it or some other adult-themed (heteronormative) book.
“Gender Queer” is not assigned reading. It was available upon request to high-school students in the library. This book should be used as a tool in suicide prevention. We should be encouraging that, and not shaming it out of existence.
To be clear, I’m not for any book that might be helpful to a struggling child being banned from the school library. And, I’m grateful Shakespeare and other authors that include “adult themes” in their writing are taught in our schools.
If we judged the Bible on Solomon’s Song of Songs, we would be missing the point of the book.
Stephana Ferrell lives in Winter Garden.