This post has been corrected after discussion with the school district (11/23/2021)

According to media reports, Harrisonburg City Public Schools in Harrisonburg, Virginia, may have violated district policy by removing the award-winning graphic novel, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, from school libraries without following any district procedures. NCAC wrote to the school board to return the book to library shelves until the challenge can be properly reviewed and take steps to ensure that the challenge is adjudicated in an unbiased manner, and in accordance with District policies. However, it seems that the book is currently not on shelves because a parent has refused to return it to the library. The district has ordered a replacement and will complete an official review, as required by their policies.

News reports state that Superintendent Michael Richards has admitted that he has failed in his “obligation to put challenged material through a process that ensures a deliberative and balanced outcome[.]” Richards has formed a committee to advise on creating policies that deal with the specific challenges posed by graphic novels, including acquisition policies.

The book review process is meant to be deliberate and thoughtful. To that end, District regulations require challenged books to be assessed by a committee of educators, read in their entirety, and assessed in accordance with specified criteria.

Gender Queer likely does not appeal to every student. But if every library book is required to serve every student, the shelves would be bare. A library, including a school library, is meant to include a broad selection of books that provide value to students. Gender Queer clearly has value for many students. It was a 2020 American Library Association Alex Award Winner, and also was named a 2020 Stonewall — Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award Honor Book. In addition, it was described by the School Library Journal as “a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand.”

Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: