When a particularly offensive and sexually graphic book lands on the shelf of an Alaska school library, or is included in a district’s collection, outraged parents understandably ask, “Who’s responsible?”
In most cases, it is extremely difficult to pin down. With a litany of subcommittees, advisory groups, controversial committee boards and scores of school librarians and educators, it’s hard to identify exactly who is working to get these books into children’s hands.
On rare occasion, however, either through anonymous whistleblowers or Freedom of Information requests, we catch a glimpse into the inner workings of how these books are embedded into our schools.
Over the last few months, Anchorage political activist Jay McDonald has been reading – during school board meetings – some of the most sexually graphic books that circulate through the school district.
These meetings have stirred considerable media reports, including national coverage. They have also sparked some hand wringing and agitation among hard-leftist educators who desperately want impressionable children to access books that encourage to explore anal and oral sex, masturbation, cross-sex surgery and the creation of pornographic text messages. All of that and more is covered in several books, which the Anchorage School District allows in its school libraries.
It turns out that principals, teachers and librarians are now worried that McDonald’s highlighting of these books, might stir up community opposition.
How do we know this? McDonald used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain emails from district employees discussing these books.
He uncovered several revealing exchanges between educators that exposes an educational culture which has fully embraced the idea of exposing impressionable students to highly graphic accounts and images of various sexual fetishes and practices, as well as how to engage in them.
This past October, McDonald read from “This Book is Gay,” which was available in several school libraries. It contains numerous references to anal sex and claims that everyone has fantasized about having sex with both men and women. Other passages talk about how to give or receive pleasurable blow jobs and hand jobs.
A few days after McDonald read some of these passages at the Oct. 18 school board meeting, several local school librarians, teachers and principals began sending emails about the book. Some of these exchanges were about how they could defend the book from parents and others who might raise objections.
In an Oct. 27 email from Bartlett Librarian Becky Forsyth to Bartlett Principal Sean Prince, Forsyth references McDonald’s school board testimony regarding “This Book is Gay.”
“Not long ago, we had two copies, but one walked off,” Forsyth wrote. “This frequently happens with books appealing to the LGBTQIA+ community for one of two reasons: someone wants it and takes it to keep, or someone doesn’t want it circulated.”
She then coached Bartlett educators in ways to combat any “parents or other community members” who may be angered over the fact that Bartlett provides this book for youth.
“It is shocking to hear out loud,” she admitted. “At this point, I feel it should stay in the library considering we are a 9-12 grade school. It has positive reviews in School Library and Journal and Booklist. They both recommend it for ages 8th to 12th grade. It is filled with factual information, including talking points for how to challenge homophobic language and come out to family and friend.”
She also pointed out the fact that the book instructs kids on how to access professional cross-sex hormone therapy.
“Furthermore the book is written by a transgender woman who is on the other side of this difficult journey that many students are just beginning,” Forsyth added.
She then made the argument that the book should remain available to students because the school has “at least one other book about heterosexual sex, and other books on the reproductive system and anatomy.”
Forsyth claimed that the school needed to “have balance if we are going to have books featuring relationships, dating and sex,” and noted that Bartlett already has “numerous fiction books describing sexual acts, both heterosexual and gay.”
“Where would we draw the line on how explicit the books should be or not be?” she asked. “Who is expected to take the time to read each book and find out?”
Forsyth then asserted that teens have a “free speech” rights to access graphic gay sex books. For those who question this wisdom, she said the book contains a “warning … in case younger readers (or anyone else) wants to skip it.”
She proceeded to argue that the school board should reconsider allowing a parent to even read from school library books because it subjects people to “listening to someone engendering controversy.”
Forsyth noted that kids are “never forced to read a book in the library,” but that the school’s collection should “reflect the community we serve,” by providing transgender and gay sex books.
“If you are asked about the books in our library, you are welcome to share this message as you see fit,” Forsyth advised.
Later that day, Bartlett Principal Sean Prince responded to Forsyth’s email.
“Thank you for the email, Becky. I did hear the ‘testimony’ and want you to know our admin team discussed it,” Prince wrote. “I am still standing firm and resolute to never be party to banning books, burning books or limiting the information that informs our society writ large. I will always stand by to defend the flag and people’s right to also burn that same flag in protest. I believe that the defense of those rights and the education of our citizenry is true patriotism.”
Three days after McDonald’s testimony, Polaris Principal Carol Bartholomew emailed the school’s librarian Rachel Gregory to find out how many times “This Book is Gay” has been checked out by students in the K-12 grade school.
Gregory began by defending the book as being “award winning” with high marks from the American Library Association. She said it was first purchased for Polaris students in November of 2020.
“It was brought to our attention that our LGBTYQ section was lacking – we looked to expand it,” Gregory explained, adding that “This Book is Gay” was not intended for elementary age kids.
She said the book was checked out in Dec. of 2021 and lost, but that students could still access it through the Loussac Library. “A hard copy might only be in 3-4 schools, but students can get ahold of this text,” Gregory said.
She added that she was “professionally advised that this text – due to reviews, subject matter, population and information – makes sense in a young adult collection – and is a thoughtful choice – provided in our K-12 library it is not accessible to elementary readers.”
Gregory finished her email by noting that she was in the process of reading the book.
“It is graphic and blunt in a cartoony, keep it light way – but there is a tremendous amount of good information for a lost student in this situation – no one to talk to or ask questions of,” she said. “This is a book of information for the LGBTQ community. The reading level is 14+ and the author constantly discussing safety, safety, safety. He touches on STDs, condoms – gay terms, graphic pictures (in cartoon image) but nowhere does he encourage unsafe behavior (this will be argued, I am sure).”
Gregory worried that the book might be banned due to objections over its content.
“I fear it will be pulled off the shelves in our ASD libraries,” she said.
In her last sentence, she compared the gay sex book to the Holy Bible, saying the Bible refers to sodomy and sexual behavior several times and that banning a book would create a “slippery slope.”
Another email from West/Romig Librarian Staci Cox shows that she wanted to include the book in a bulk purchasing order from Barns and Noble in September of 2022.
Finally, an email exchange between Steller Secondary Library Assistant Bonnie DeArmoun and Stellar Secondary English Language Arts Teacher Ashley Van Hemert shows that DeArmoun wanted to buy a whole host of controversial books featuring gay sex and relationships for a new “censorship” class she was planning.
These are some of the books that she said looked “like a good fit for our readers.”
— “All Boys Aren’t Blue” – Describes graphic anal sex acts.
— “Lawn Boy” (by Jonathan Evison) – Describes 10-year-old boys engaged in oral sex at a church youth group meeting.
— “Beyond Magenta” – Includes accounts of six-year-olds kissing older guys, making out with them and performing sex acts.
— “This Book is Gay” – Includes graphic descriptions and instruction on a who host of gay sex acts, fetishes and the creation of sexting porn.
Librarian DeArmoun said she was interested in buying some of these books for the school, especially “Beyond Magenta.”
She then told Van Hemert to let her know if she had any recommendations of which books she should purchase.
“When do you teach this class?” DeArmoun wrote. “If I act fast you could use them.”
— Contact Bartlett High School Principal Sean Prince at Prince_Sean@asdk12.org
— Contact Bartlett High Librarian Becky Forsyth at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Contact Polaris Principal Carol Bartholomew at Bartholomew_Carol@asdk12.org
— Contact Polaris Librarian Rachel Gregory at email@example.com
— Contact West High/Romig Middle School Librarian Staci Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Contact Steller Secondary Library Assistant Bonnie DeArmoun at email@example.com
— Contact Stellar English teacher Ashley Van Hemert at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Click here to contact the Anchorage School Board https://www.asdk12.org/Page/1442
— Click here to contact Anchorage Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt