Oct 27, 2021 - News

A push to ban LGBTQ books in Waukee

A Waukee parent holds up pictures from a book

Amanda McClanahan shows a page depicting oral sex from "Gender Queer," a graphic novel and memoir. Screenshot via Waukee Community School District livestream

The Waukee school district removed three LGBTQ books from the Northwest High School library last week after someone requested a review of their contents, school officials say.

Driving the news: Community member Amanda McClanahan, who is not a parent in the school district, read sexually explicit excerpts from the books during Monday night's school board meeting, and condemned district leaders for having them on shelves.

  • The excerpts described oral sex in detail, as well as teens losing their virginity.

The big picture: What's happening in Waukee isn't unique. There's a nationwide movement to remove the three young adult LGBTQ books, including in Pennsylvania and Kansas, and it's falling on school board members.

  • There's been a 60% increase in people challenging books, including the ones brought up in Waukee, this school year, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association.
  • In recent years, the majority of banned books are LGBTQ-related topics.

Zoom in: The district purchased 7,800 books for the new high school from their third-party vendor, Follet, this year, Varcoe said.

  • School staff didn't read every single book, but the vendor does give literature that's deemed age-appropriate for high schoolers.
  • Parents and community members who are concerned about school material can request a review. A committee comprised of educators from a different school will review and see if it fits district standards.

What they're saying: McClanahan claimed the books were allowed in under the "guise of equality and equity" that's pushed by the school board.

  • "Can you tell me — does equity and inclusion also include incestuous relationships, child-adult sex and books that promote pedophilia?"

The other side: Caldwell-Stone said it's unfair to pull excerpts that put them out of context, and that the books address coming-of-age and questioning sexual and gender identity

  • The books don't fit the values of every family, but they do fit the needs of some, she said.
  • High school students "deserve" to see themselves reflected in the library, Caldwell-Stone added.

The bottom line: With less than a week until school board elections, our classrooms are the political battlegrounds and books are just one of the weapons being used.


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