Homophobic Attacks on Schools and Libraries

Schools and libraries are the setting for many community censorship controversies. Teachers and librarians who seek to expose children to a wide range of ideas, to be sensitive to our cultural and religious diversity, and to encourage curiosity and critical thinking are most likely to be targets.

 

  • Two books, Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman and Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite have been at the center of controversies in many communities. Both books are written for young children and each portrays the life of a child who has homosexual parents.

    In Salisbury, Maryland a local minister demanded the two books be removed from the public library, claiming their presence "invaded [his] privacy." In Mercer County, New Jersey, a library patron asked that Daddy’s Roommate be moved from the children’s section of the library, where it belonged, to the adult section.

    With NCAC’s help, concerned citizens organized against the censors. In Mercer County, a broad-based community anti censorship organization, Many Voices, was formed with NCAC’s support. Although the library has not returned the book to the children’s section, Many Voices is continuing to educate the community on the dangers of censorship.

  • The Drowning of Stephan Jones, by Bette Greene, is the story of the drowning of a gay man because of community intolerance. A Boling, Texas school board member objected, alleging that the book—which was being used in a cultural diversity curriculum—promoted anti-Christian beliefs, contained objectionable language, and condoned illegal activity.

    Despite threats that she would be fired, the teacher defended the book, calling it a "teaching tool that sets the foundation for our students to learn responsible behavior." NCAC provided support and technical assistance. The review committee recommended that the book be retained, but the school board voted to remove the book from the curriculum and from the library. The teacher secured an attorney and the book was returned.

  • Maurice by E.M. Forster and The Education of Harriet Hatfield by May Sarton were removed from the New Ipswich, N.H. regional high school. The novels’ purchase was financed by a grant that teacher Penny Culliton received and was approved by the school superintendent and principal. However, shortly after a local newspaper reported that Ms. Culliton was involved with a lesbian and gay support group for young people, the books were found unsuitable and were banned. Maurice and The Education of Harriet Hatfield were seized from the students while they were reading the novels in class. The teacher has been fired. NCAC publicized the case widely, collaborated with the New Hampshire Education Association, which is taking her dismissal to arbitration, and, at Ms. Culliton’s request, worked to build a local group to become involved in local school issues.


  • In the Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan area, two young-adult novels with gay characters (Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden and All-American Boy by Frank Mosca) in school libraries ignited controversy in seven separate communities. In the towns of Olathe and Shawnee Mission students and parents organized demonstrations against the removal of the books from the library. To protest book-banning, Shawnee Mission students checked out 3,000 books in one day. (They then returned the books and helped with reshelving). The books were ultimately retained in Shawnee Mission and in Kansas City and North Kansas City. In Olathe, the case is in the courts.


  • An award-winning high school history teacher in Port Charlotte, Florida, was accused during a school board meeting of "recruiting" his students for homosexuality, because he had assigned Mary Renault’s The Last of the Wine, a novel set in ancient Greece. The book’s plot includes a homoerotic relationship.

    NCAC worked with activists throughout Florida to protect the rights of the students and of the teacher. And we won: The Board of Education voted 4-0 to retain the novel. But the cost to the teacher, who was publicly vilified and humiliated, has been high.

  • In Fairfax County, Virginia, the objection to Meredith Tax’s Families, used in first-grade classrooms, was that it presented a "lesbian theme." "Nowhere in this book is the word `marriage’ emphasized," charged another objector. NCAC worked with local teachers and parents as well as the author in defending the book. Two review committees recommended retaining the book but also added another book to the curriculum. As a result of the controversy, several principals have removed the book from classrooms.