Cook County

Controversial ‘Gender Queer’ will remain on the shelf at Barrington High, board decides

District 99 decided in June to keep book in school libraries

The controversial graphic memoir “Gender Queer” will remain on the shelf at the Barrington High School library, the Barrington Community Unit School District 220 school board has decided.

The board’s vote late Tuesday came after school- and district-level reviews of author Maia Kobabe’s account of exploring gender identity and sexuality. The district-level committee recommended keeping the book in the library, Superintendent Robert Hunt said

The Barrington district is at least the third suburban school system board to keep “Gender Queer” available in high school libraries despite strong opposition from some parents. Antioch Community High School District 117 officials opted to retain the book in April, and the Downers Grove High School District 99 board did the same in June.

District 220 board member Erin Chan Ding, who voted to keep the book, said the district must serve each one of its more than 8,000 students.

“And that includes making sure that our students can access stories that could reflect their experience, their friends’ experiences, and could help them build empathy in ways that are appropriate,” she said.

Joining her in voting to retain the book were board President Sandra Bradford, Vice President Leah Collister-Lazzari and Secretary Barry Altshuler. Board members Katie Karam and Steve Wang cast no votes.

“For me, my recommendation would be to either reclassify or even restrict,” Wang said, noting that the book’s author identifies it as mature content for an audience that is 15 or older.

“The fact that this is available in a high school, you have half the population of the high school, as freshmen and sophomores most likely, that may not be at the right age,” he said.

Parents first raised concerns about the book in June, after an email to middle-school families encouraging children to read over the summer included two lists of award-winning books. “Gender Queer” appears on one of the lists.

But district officials said “Gender Queer” is not available in any middle or elementary school libraries, or part of the district’s curriculum at any level.

Parents and district residents on both sides of the debate packed school board meetings since, including Tuesday’s. Supporters of the book lifted rainbow flags, while opponents held signs protesting what they labeled porn in the schools.

“Once we start banning books, it’s a slippery slope,” said resident Jim McGrath.

But Dan Krucek, a parent of two elementary school girls, said the book’s content is inappropriate for children.

“This has nothing to do with gay people or straight people,” he said. “It’s not appropriate. I would love to have a conversation with any of you adults that sit up here and think this is right that I last night had to have a conversation with my 10- and 8-year-olds about this filth in our schools.”