A Texas school district fired an eighth-grade English teacher for assigning a reading from Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, an illustrated adaptation of Frank’s indispensable, historic book The Diary of a Young Girl. In the passage, the then-teenaged author and victim of the Holocaust described her genitals and attraction to other females.
Frank, a German-born Jewish teenager who died in 1945, just months before Germany’s defeat in World War II, wrote the diary during a two-year time period when she and her family were in hiding to avoid being sent to Nazi death camps, remaining ensconced in a secret annex above the Amsterdam warehouse for the company that her father had owned.
The graphic novel, which hews closely to the text of the unedited, original version of Diary, contains portions of Frank’s diary that had previously been edited out of the book’s 1952 English edition, but were restored in the book’s 1989 republication, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Those censored sections included passages where Frank wrote about her understanding of male and female genitalia — including the development of her own body during puberty — and where she expressed feelings of attraction toward a female friend.
Pulling from those passages, the graphic novel adaptation depicts Frank asking a female friend if she’d feel comfortable exposing their breasts to each other, with her friend declining. In another section, Frank walks amongst nude female statues, stating, “I must admit, every time I see a female nude, I go into ecstasy. If only I had a girlfriend!”
Several parents in the Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District of Jefferson County became enraged over the book’s content dealing with issues of sexuality and same-sex attraction, arguing that such topics are inappropriate for minors, especially middle schoolers.
Many of those parents also demanded the teacher be removed from the classroom for including such “inappropriate” material in the reading assignment.
“I mean, it’s bad enough, she’s having them read this for an assignment, but then she also is making them read it aloud and making a little girl talk about feeling each other’s breasts, and when she sees a female, she goes into ecstasy, that’s not okay,” Amy Manuel, a parent of twin eighth-grade sons, told Beaumont, Texas-based CBS affiliate KDFM.
In an email sent to parents last Tuesday, the school district criticized the teacher.
“It was brought to the administration’s attention tonight that 8th-grade students were reading content that was not appropriate. The reading of that content will cease immediately,” the email stated. “Your student’s teacher will communicate her apologies to you and your students soon, as she has expressed those apologies to us. HFISD has provided a quality, engaging education to all students in the past and will continue to strive for the same in the present and future.”
The school district later indicated, in a subsequent communication, that the teacher had been fired, accusing her of using “unapproved and graphic version” of Anne Frank’s diary for a reading assignment.
Mike Canizales, the communications and community engagement coordinator for the Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District, told KDFM that the teacher had been “sent home” and that there was an “active investigation” ongoing.
In follow-up correspondence sent to parents, the school district said that a substitute teacher took over the class starting on September 13, and that administration officials were searching for a new full-time teacher.
The teacher has reportedly hired an attorney to challenge her firing.
While district officials claimed that the graphic novel was “unapproved,” KDFM reported that it had been listed on a reading list sent to parents at the start of the school year, and that Hamshire-Fannett Middle School’s principal had allegedly approved the syllabus mentioning the book. As such, this casts doubt on the veracity and accuracy of the school district’s public statements.
When asked whether she approved the syllabus, the middle school’s principal, Cynthia Jackson, referred reporters to the district superintendent’s office, which reiterated the school district’s official statements on the teacher’s dismissal.
The unabridged version of Anne Frank’s diary has sparked controversy at other schools, leading to it being banned from school library shelves in various districts.
In Vero Beach, Florida, the book was removed in response to complaints from the “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty, which has devoted much of its energy to censoring texts dealing with LGBTQ content in school libraries and lesson plans. Activists called the novel “sexually explicit” and claimed it was “not a true adaptation of the Holocaust.”
The book was also challenged in the Keller Independent School District, located outside of Fort Worth, with some activists deeming it “pornographic.”
The book was among 41 that were flagged and temporarily relocated for containing LGBTQ-related or race-related content. However, the Anne Frank diary was ultimately returned to library shelves after being reviewed and approved by a district committee created to determine whether books are “appropriate” for minors or should be banned permanently.
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