Poway Unified School District

Books With LGBTQ+ Themes Under Review in Poway Unified School District

Some parents want them taken off the shelves in school libraries. Some retired teachers are pushing the pack

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Two books on the shelves of Poway Unified School District (PUSD) libraries have some parents calling for their removal over their LGBT+ content, but a handful of retired teachers are pushing back to keep them.

PUSD is currently reviewing the content in the books "Fun Home" and "Gender Queer."

"Fun Home" is an illustrated novel that details the author's relationship with her father, who is a closeted gay man. An illustrated memoir, "Gender Queer" charts the author's journey grappling with gender identity, and includes some drawings of nude characters and sexual scenarios, the LA Times reported.

At least two parents at a school board meeting in September spoke in protest of the books, arguing students should not have access to the books in the school libraries. 

“I suggest the books mentioned be pulled from the shelves immediately,” said one parent.

Another parent, Rachelle Bubler said, “A parent must sign a permission slip to watch a PG-rated movie in class, yet children can easily access this in our libraries and parents don’t know.”

While some parents raised concerns over the book's content, a couple of retired teachers pushed back on why it's important for the school to have them available.

“With the way the suicide rate is, it’s unconscionable not to try to bring that information to help them understand they’re not alone," said Marianna Bacilla, a retired teacher who said students struggling with identity issues need the books.

“I feel bad for the kids," retired teacher Julia Ruggieri echoed. "This is the reason I’m speaking out. This is about the kids.”

Poway resident Ted Callam said parents who do not want their children to read the books should not take the opportunity away from other students.

“Let them be strong parents and work with their children, but don’t put their values and morals on others," he said.

In a statement emailed to NBC 7, the district wrote in part:

PUSD has an administrative procedure for the review of any books that receive complaints or concerns. The review goes to a committee that includes parents, administrators, students, librarians, and teachers. As it pertains to those specific titles "Fun Home" and "Gender Queer," they are going under review by the district review committee due to parent complaints around pervasive vulgarity and lack of educational suitability.

“The content PUSD is exposing to our children not only is unlawful but violates basic notions of morality,” Bubler said.

That opinion was countered by Ruggieri, who said she is concerned the district is "acquiescing to well-financed parents instead of looking at the needs of kids, and making decisions that impact all of the kids instead of the need of a few.”

In its statement, the district wrote it never banned any books.  

“Our students, staff, and parents have expressed a strong interest in the expansion of reading lists to reflect more diverse characters, authors and perspectives, and in fact, we have actually expanded the availability of additional titles in recent years in including LGBT+ titles.”

Editor's note: "Gender Queer" was unavailable at a local library the day of this report, and NBC 7 was unable to obtain a physical copy of the book.

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