Discussion surrounding two books in the Medomak Valley High School library consumed a majority of the RSU 40 Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, May 5.
This is the second time the books – “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer,” a memoir by Maia Kobabe – have been the topic of discussion at a board meeting. At the April 7 meeting, Waldoboro resident and candidate for the RSU 40 board Steve Karp asked why the books were in the library, saying they contained “pornography.”
RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan addressed Karp’s remarks during the May 5 meeting while giving his report to the board.
“I think it is important to note that these books are part of our library collection and not required reading,” Nolan said. “I wanted to mention our policy regarding the selection of educational materials. At the time these books were purchased, that policy required our library and media centers to provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficult and diversity of appeal and the presentation of different points of view.”
The district’s selection of educational materials policy was revised on Jan. 6 of this year.
Nolan said the district received a challenge regarding both books, which were reviewed. Ultimately, it was decided not to remove the books from the school library.
Karp told the board the “Gender Queer” references a real pornographic website.
“Now what do you think is going to happen when one of our school children see this link in this book?” said Karp. “They are going to pull out their phone and go to (the link).”
Karp also asked the board to remember God and pray to him.
Owen Weber, student representative on the RSU 40 board, advocated for the books to remain in the high school’s library. Weber is a senior at MVHS who will attend Yale University in the fall.
Weber sent a survey about the books to MVHS students 48 hours prior to the meeting and left it open for 24 hours for students to provide their thoughts. One question asked respondents to rate their agreement or disagreement with the practice of book banning in the district.
Seventy-five percent of students expressed “greatest disagreement” with book banning, Weber said.
“We do not want to have our rights to free speech and expression suppressed in our school district,” Weber said. “And they also indicated that they would like to have resources to educate themselves about history and topics in the LGBTQ+ community. A lot of the students in our school district and at MVHS identify with the LGBTQ+ community and come from homes where their identities are rejected, and therefore live in an environment where they cannot be who they actually are”
After the meeting, Weber said he felt support from the school board but did not think he changed any minds of those that disagreed with him.
The next RSU 40 Board of Directors meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 19 at the central office. Meeting agendas, documents, schedules and minutes can be found atmsad40.org.