Metro Weekly

Mother Files Police Report over “Gay” Book in High School Library

Mother says "This Book is Gay" provides information about dating apps and sex, making it "dangerous" for children to read.

gay, banned books, outrage, lgbtq content
Photo: Anna Griessel, via Dreamstime

A mother of a high school student in Michigan reportedly filed a police report over the presence of a gay book in her daughter’s school library due to its “graphic” content and belief that the book’s advice could put students in danger.

This Book is Gay, by Juno Dawson, is one of seven that have been pulled from circulation by the Dearborn Public Schools system after parents objected to their content. Five of the titles deal with LGBTQ content or contain primary or secondary characters who are LGBTQ. The school system also restricted access to an e-book app frequently utilized by students.

The mother, Stephanie Butler, has submitted complaints about six different books — some of which are available in person in school libraries, and others that are available through the school’s Sora app, which provides access to thousands of different e-books that students may choose to read.

Butler told Detroit-area ABC affiliate WXYZ that she directed her daughter, who attends Edsel Ford High School, to check out a book, Flamer, by Mike Curato.

The book, a semi-autobiographical novel, tells the story of Aiden, a biracial queer boy at Boy Scouts summer camp who is struggling with his sexual orientation and his Catholic religious upbringing, and who is frequently bullied for his appearance and effeminate behavior by other boys demonstrating toxic masculine behavior, including directing homophobic slurs at Aiden,  and who spend their time trying to prove to each other who is more manly.

Butler told WXYZ she balked after reading the book, which she claims depicts sexually explicit acts between young boys and graphic descriptions, warning: “[W]hen you put something into a kid’s mind, it makes them want to do it more or try it.”

She says her concerns aren’t limited to just any book depicting LGBTQ people.

“If these were just LGBT romance novels that is completely appropriate,” she said. “Where I draw the line is teaching them how to actually do the act.”

Butler also wrote a Facebook post railing against This Book is Gay, the book she reported to the Dearborn Police, citing concerns over chapters that talk about how to join dating apps and how to talk to or debate people who identify as Christian, Muslim, or Orthodox Jews and who hold religious views opposing homosexuality.

“The book in question is called This Book is Gay. It teaches the children how to have sexual relations with members of the same gender and has graphic illustrations,” Butler wrote. “This book also goes into detail about how to get on adult hookup sites for one night stands. This book also gives arguments on Christian and Muslim beliefs and how to argue in favor of engaging in sexual relationships. I wanted you to be aware of what your children are learning especially at Edsel Ford, which seems to be the worst school of all in allowing material of this nature into the reach of our children.”

Butler said she felt This Book is Gay was “so graphic I felt I had to make a police report about it.” She said the chapter on how to join dating apps and the risks involved is “dangerous” if minors choose to act on the book’s advice — despite the book saying, in bold print in the text, that dating apps are intended to be restricted to those over the age of 18.

“I knew I had to take action before somebody got hurt,” Butler told WXYZ. “I am worried if they do meet somebody [through the apps], they could get rape[d], kidnapped or trafficked.”

A spokesperson for the Dearborn Police Department said that the matter is currently being investigated.

In response to Butler’s complaint, the school district has temporarily pulled seven books, including This Book is Gay, from circulation.

The district also removed student access to all e-books that are available through the Sora app, the Wayne library consortium, and the Dearborn Public Library overdrive collection, lest any students access potentially controversial books, especially those with LGBTQ content or characters, according to Dr. Ross Groover, a consultant for the district’s curriculum and professional development, who spoke at a recent DPS school board meeting discussing the removal of the seven flagged books. 

At that school board meeting, parents spoke for and against restricting access to potentially objectionable books. 

“No one has a right to censor someone else except a parent for their child,” one attendee said during the meeting’s public comment portion. “As public officials, it is your duty to try to maintain as wide of access to information as possible.”

DPS insists it is not imposing book bans, as other school districts around the country have.

“We are not banning books, I want to make that very clear,” David Mustonen, the director of communications for DPS, told WXYZ. “What we are doing is evaluating the books in our inventory.”

The district says it has more than 100,000 titles to go through to ensure they do not contain objectionable content — a process that could take up to a year to complete. The district is also finalizing a form to allow parents to “flag” books they believe are inappropriate for school libraries, and plan to make the form available to the broader public on Friday.

After receiving complaints about a particular book, a committee made up of parents, teachers, and media specialists will then review the book and decide whether it will be permanently removed from the shelves.

But Paul Bruce, a former teacher for DPS who previously helped develop the district’s anti-bullying campaigns, criticized DPS for its actions, writing in his own Facebook post that the district has set an awful precedent, creating “an expectation for similar ‘temporary’ bans and reviews every time someone else wants this attention regarding books and materials that are personally not to their liking.” He added that the ongoing push to censor books for any reason whatsoever will become “a never-ending herculean task” for school librarians and administrators.

“The simple response that should have been delivered is that we have books for everyone in our library. We care about all of our students and we want all of them to know that they are valued and wanted. These books provide that necessary element to our LGBTQ+ students. No one is forcing anyone to read any of this material,” he wrote. “If YOU don’t like it, don’t read it. End of story.”

Bruce also expressed doubts about Butler’s sincerity, referring to her as a “disgruntled parent.”

“While the perpetrator of the ban has gone out of her way to claim that she has ‘nothing against the LGBTQ+ community,’ no statement could be more ridiculous,” he added.

With regards to This Book is Gay, specifically, Bruce told WXYZ he wishes he had access to similar resources when he was younger.

“It answers so many questions I wish could have been answered for me as a child,” Bruce said. “My life would have been so different.

“You have to be able to address those concerns,” Bruce said of This Books is Gay‘s content. “How do you stay safe? How do you prevent yourself from being abused verbally or physically? And how do you stand up to that when it is being thrown at you?”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Stephanie Butler was a member of the conservative group Moms for Liberty. She is not, nor ever has been, a member of the group. 

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