Natrona School Board Votes to Keep Books, With a Few Caveats
At the Natrona County School Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, the board voted to keep two books in school libraries almost unanimously, though with a few exceptions.
The books, Gender Queer and Trans Bodies Trans Selves have been a topic of debate for several months, with dozens of people coming to speak at school board meetings both for and against the books, with many of the same people speaking at multiple meetings.
In September, a reconsideration committee released its decision regarding the books, stating that both should be kept in school libraries.
In response, the group Moms for Liberty filed an appeal to the committee's decision, which the NCSD board ended up rejecting, but required that both books be age restricted to students 17 years and older and that students could only read them if their parents opted in.
The one vote against the resolution of keeping the books was from Trustee Kianna Smith, who said that she voted against it because she disagrees with the opt-in inclusion, and would have preferred the board reject the appeal without a caveat.
Tanya Southerland, the Director of Public Relations for NCSD, said school principals will be telling parents how they can opt-in to the two books at some point in the future.
At the meeting on Monday, of the 17 people that came up to speak, most spoke in favor of keeping books in libraries, along with city council member Amber Pollock, while representative-elect Jeanette Ward spoke against the books, as she had previously.
Pollock said that banning the books would have a negative impact on the LGBTQ community in Casper.
"The continued scapegoating of vulnerable populations is a known precursor to violence and the invalidation of individual identity is a known risk factor for suicide," Pollock said. "If we really share a goal of protecting children, that is where we should turn our attention. I'll reiterate here because it's the most important thing I have to say to you tonight. It is a documented fact, that the scapegoating of vulnerable groups is a precursor to violence and it is a well-documented fact that students who are invalidated in their identities are at a higher risk of suicides than students who are supported in their identities. For these reasons, the way this narrative either grows or shrinks in the hands of community leaders is of real concern to the safety of students and the community at large."
Trustee Dana Howie said she thinks it's a bad idea to take the two books out of schools because of the message it sends to the LGBTQ community.
"The emphasis always seemed to be on LGBTQ because some of you seem to think it's a choice. It's not. We knew this back in the 90s. And if you research enough, you'll find the science to explain there are many forms on a spectrum. It's genetic. As a high school teacher at Kelly Walsh for 28 years, I can tell you that I have several students that were trying to figure things out. One day in child development class, we were discussing genetics and the easiest way possible, talking about eye color. Someone asked if being gay was genetic. A young man in my class blurted out 'of course it is, do you think I want to be this way?' And then he looked around the room and realized what he'd said. Thank goodness my class was a kind group of students. He told us he was terrified to tell his parents, his dad was a baptist minister and he would not only be excommunicated from the church, but thrown out of his family. Sometimes kids can't talk to their parents about what is bothering them. Sometimes they have to find other ways to help themselves, like reading a book. And not just the pictures, but reading the whole book because that book did have a message, I'm talking about Gender Queer."