Two LGBTQ+ Books Back on Shelf in Kent, WA, Middle School; New Challenge On Deck
Earlier this year, we reported on three books quietly pulled from a Kent, Washington, middle school. Gavin Downing, school librarian at Cedar Heights Middle School, saw three LGBTQ+ books quietly removed from the collection by the school principal, in a move that failed to follow procedures for a challenge. There had been no formal challenge to any of the titles.
Two of the three books were returned to the collection. A third, though, has now been formally challenged.
A parent of a Cedar Heights Middle School student filed a reconsideration form for Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen. The complainant, a former employee of Kent School District, highlights many of the same passages seen across the country for the book, calling the book inappropriate for a middle school. In the form, age is specifically addressed, noting that a book for 14 and up is inappropriate in a school for 6-8th graders, as “[t]he majority of students entering 8th grade are 13 years old. With 6th graders anticipated to join the middle school we will have students as young as 10 years old entering the school.” Apparently those eighth graders who turn 14 are not members of that school community.
The complaint further discusses that exposure to “explicit material” such as this book damages middle schoolers and that the language in a single paragraph of the book would warrant an R rating, were it a movie.
Downing provided a 20-page, research-backed response to the complaint, which can (and should) be read in full here. He specifically notes the need to reach all students within a community, as well as a body of research about the role exposure to queer-positive literature has for students of any identity. He also notes the convenient pieces of research left out of the formal complaint.
The individual who filed the complaint has no current children enrolled at Cedar Heights Middle School. Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is a frequent flier among book challengers, and in local Washington “parents’ rights” groups, it’s a title being shared alongside an array of talking points that encourage adults to challenge. One post in particular seeds doubt into the entire review process in the Kent School District after the initial book removals, done quietly outside the formal process, was unsuccessful.
The book will go through the formal review process, and per procedure, will likely end up before the school board for discussion. Downing remains cautiously optimistic that the book will remain available for students after review.