NCAC is deeply concerned by the removal of Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, from Pennsylvania’s Wissahickon School District school libraries pending the outcome of a challenge. The District’s Superintendent made troubling comments at the October 25, 2021, board meeting defending this blatant violation of district policy.
Superintendent Crisfield stated that the book had been removed from circulation pending the outcome of the challenge despite the fact that, as Dr. Crisfield acknowledged, Board Policy 144 explicitly states that, when a challenge to a book is filed, the book “will remain in circulation until the process is completed.” Moreover, Dr. Crisfield stated that the book had been removed in violation of policy because “the outcome [of the review] is pretty obvious.”
The Superintendent both ignored the rule without discussion, and without a single board member taking issue, and, crucially, prejudged the book in question. The district’s review process is meant to be deliberate and thoughtful, and to allow books to be reviewed–as they always should be–in their full context, not on the basis of select passages or images. District regulations require challenged books to be assessed according to all of the criteria listed in Board Policy 144, and explicitly state that the work “must be examined as a whole and not in part.”
The district’s action flies in the face of its ostensible commitment to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry, as well as its commitment to “address each student’s unique needs” and to “help them discover and achieve their full personal, social, and intellectual potential” (Board Policy 101).
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.” For the students who need this book, its removal from library shelves sends a devastating message. And for students who have no interest in this book, its presence on library shelves would not affect them at all.
Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: