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Michigan School Superintendent Apologizes for Removing Books From Schools

Michigan School Superintendent Apologizes for Removing Books From Schools

Library shelves with books upon them.

He says that he was trying to lower the temperature by removing books that some parents were upset about.

A school superintendent in Michigan, involved in a book-banning controversy, admitted to his school’s community that he took it upon himself to remove several books — which he referred to as "R-rated" — from a high school library to avoid conflict with angry conservative parents who had expressed their discomfort with their children being exposed to topics including ones related to the LGBTQ+ community.

The administrator emailed parents admitting after previously denying that he unilaterally removed six books from school library shelves. He now admits he was wrong for doing so.

Forest Hills school superintendent Dan Behm apologized to district staff in a letter he sent on Wednesday night. He tried to explain the reasoning behind single-handedly intervening and taking reading materials off library shelves.

After “two years of contentious board meetings and angry parents reading graphic excerpts from library books and accusing schools of indoctrination,” he said he tried to turn down the temperature around books, so he had some removed.

“For 24 months, our board meetings typically contain a crowd of people angrily commenting about a variety of issues and topics,” he wrote. “I mistakenly jumped at the realization that some of these books were rarely checked out, and I thought that weeding them was acceptable. This was wrong. I take full responsibility for this mistake. I should have brought any questions about books to our very capable professionals who care for our media centers or one of our teachers who have formal expertise in this area."

The National Coalition Against Censorship accused the superintendent in February of secretly removing books, which violated district procedures. In a statement to Grand Rapids Fox affiliate WXMI, the NCAC explained that the district must approve book removals, the station reports.

Behm also acknowledged that many targeted books are specific to the LGBTQ+ community.

“We have to treat all people with kindness, respect, and love. Too often, people who identify as gay, lesbian, trans, or nonbinary are marginalized or much worse,” he wrote, according to local NBC affiliate WOOD. “We need books in our libraries that reflect the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone should be able to see themselves – their identity, their faith tradition, their culture, their family structure, and so much more – in some of the books that they choose to read.”

People ought to be able to read and learn about communities, cultures, and unfamiliar stories, Behm wrote.

“I am sorry that I did not do better sooner in this issue,” he said. “I remain fully committed to my own learning and supporting you and your selfless efforts to help all kids learn, grow, and thrive.”

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