COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster has requested an investigation into “obscene materials” in public school libraries after parents in Fort Mill expressed concern over the book, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe.
In a Nov. 10 letter, McMaster requested that Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and the S.C. Department of Education perform a “comprehensive investigation” into the presence of Kobabe’s book and other “obscene” materials in public school libraries. The governor first heard about the book from constituents, who were concerned about the images it depicted.
“If school personnel had performed even a cursory review in this particular instance, it would have revealed that the book contains sexually explicit and pornographic depictions, which easily meet or exceed the statutory definition of obscenity,” McMaster wrote in the Nov. 10 letter.
The governor went on to ask that the state department of education look into the issue further as it may identify additional instances “in which inappropriate materials have been introduced into our state’s public schools.”
McMaster also requested the education department to identify any policies that would allow for “obscene or otherwise inappropriate” materials to appear in school libraries. He also asked that the department or the state board of education implement standards and directives to “prevent pornography and other obscene content from entering our state’s public schools and libraries.”
Spearman and the education department were informed about the book’s presence in a Fort Mill-area high school last week, S.C. Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said in an email to The Post and Courier.
The department immediately contacted the Fort Mill School District superintendent, who had already instructed staff to remove the book.
The education department announced Nov. 9 it will conduct its own review of state-funded instructional materials with input from the public. However, that does not include library books, which are not funded by the state and don’t go through the state instructional materials process, Brown said.
“This is a fitting time for each district to review their own purchased texts including those used in classrooms, libraries, and media centers to ensure they are age and content appropriate,” the department wrote in its announcement about the review. “Schools and districts should not rely solely on publishers’ vetting. We must work alongside students, families, and educators for this process to be successful.”
Brown added it is clear in this instance that “the district failed to properly vet the book in question for adoption.”
This isn’t the first time “Gender Queer: A Memoir” has caused controversy. School districts across the country have banned the book, which uses a comic style to tell the story of Kobabe’s “journey to self-identity” as a nonbinary person, according to its description on Amazon.
The book chronicles Kobabe’s experience handling “the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears,” according to its Amazon description.
In an opinion piece published by The Washington Post, Kobabe wrote how banning books that tell the stories of young LGBTQ people “is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies and health.”
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