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.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more