ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Two books that have been challenged by Lindbergh High School parents for having graphic and vivid descriptions of sexual content are staying put in the library.
The Lindbergh Schools Board of Education voted 6-1 last week in favor of keeping “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the library and as an Honors English II reading choice, as well as keeping “Gender Queer” in the school’s library. Treasurer Mike Tsichlis voted not in favor.
The school board’s vote was based on the review committee’s decision to retain the challenged books. Since there were appeals to the review committee’s decisions, the final votes had to go before the school board.
The review committee is made up of two parents, two library media specialists, one teacher, two students at least 18 years old, the high school principal, and the district director of inclusion, equity, and diversity.
They are tasked with reading the book and looking at the text in its entirety, as well as weighing the book’s strengths and weaknesses against the district’s curriculums, student development, and education philosophy relevant to student experiences, according to Chief Academic Officer Tara Sparks.
Sparks reported the committee’s findings for both books.
Since “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a class-optional read in Honors English II, there will be a section in the course syllabus noting any concerns that parents may have parents regarding the book.
Tsichlis said he was “having a lot of trouble” with “The Handmaid’s Tale” being available to students in the library without restrictions and at the same time putting a warning label in the Honors English II syllabus.
“It just seems like a contradiction,” he said. “On the one hand, we’re providing parents with some level of oversight, and then on the other hand, well you know the book is available to any student, again, anytime.”
It was noted that a parent can go to the school’s library and inform the librarian that their child is not allowed to check out a specific book, and it will be put on the child’s record.
Board secretary Christy Watz said the decision to keep “Gender Queer” was tough because of the graphics found in the book.
“I really wish the author hadn’t done that, but after reading the book, the overall premise of it, I could see some students valuing this because they might be in those shoes,” she said.
Board member Megan Vedder agreed with Watz.
“Not only does this story have value to our students, it shows that these students that do relate to this book deserve a place in our schools,” she said.
“And I think that’s what the most important thing is — is that students who might be struggling with this topic will find a place in our schools and they deserve that. They deserve to be seen in their books, so I’m proud of our committee for this.”
While Vedder was speaking, some people in the audience who held up signs protesting her opinions were escorted out by security.
Tsichlis added that the issues with “Gender Queer” are the explicit images and was surprised how there was not a recommendation for a flag to parents about it.
“We just have to empower parents by providing that flag just to say, ‘well this contains content here that you might not approve of.’ And I just didn’t see that coming out of this committee,” he said.
Vedder replied that the graphic images should be looked at within the context of the book, which provides “healthy conversation.”
“I just want to make sure that people understand that there is content and context with the images that’s still valuable,” she said.
Fox 2 is reaching out to the school district regarding the status of other books undergoing the review process, including “Crank,” “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky,” “The Bluest Eye,” “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” and “This Book is Gay.”