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Gets Illinois Teacher Reported to Police

Gets Illinois Teacher Reported to Police

Sarah Bonner

Middle school teacher Sarah Bonner resigned afterward saying she couldn't continue teaching in that atmosphere.

Making This Book Is Gay available to her eighth-grade students got an Illinois teacher reported to police — and the incident ultimately led her to leave her job.

Sarah Bonner, a 20-year teaching veteran, included the book in what she called a “book tasting” in her middle-school English classroom in the central Illinois town of Heyworth in March, reports.

“I wanted to give them a smattering of fiction and nonfiction to choose from on a day that we call ‘Reading Monday,’” Bonner told the site. “We just read and celebrate books.”

This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson, was not assigned reading, but it was one of the books that students could choose. It is written for teens and covers coming out, stereotypes, flirting, safer sex, and more.

“As the title suggests, the book centralizes the perspective of LGBTQ+ people, discussing the cultural stigma surrounding the community and, most controversially, giving brief descriptions of some sex acts,” local public radio station WGLT notes. “Along with two cartoon diagrams of sexual anatomy, this gave rise to a wave of parental anger and online harassment.”

After “Reading Monday,” backlash was swift. “By Wednesday, I received notice that parents had gotten a hold of pictures from that book that their child had taken in class,” Bonner told “By Friday, I was told that parents had filed a police report against me for child endangerment.” Local police confirmed that the report was filed but would not comment further, according to the site.

“The notion that I was putting children in danger because of books — I didn’t feel safe,” Bonner said. “I knew I couldn’t go back.”

Bonner was placed on administrative leave and a substitute was hired, WGLT reports. She and the book received both praise and criticism at a school board meeting March 23. About 85 people attended, and 11 spoke, some supporting her and some not.

Bonner offered a much-needed welcoming space to queer students, high-schooler Allison Huebner said at the meeting. “I am a queer student here, and I know many other peers that are afraid to go to their parents and tell them who they truly are and identify with,” Huebner said, according to the station. “I know that some parents may think that their kids are completely comfortable and happy, but I’m telling you, some of them have very difficult lives, and it’s very difficult to tell other parents that.”

Some parents said the content of This Book Is Gay was inappropriate and disturbing, and they contended that any nonheterosexual sex should stay “behind closed doors,” the station reports. But others said those objections were rooted in homophobia.

Krista Reichart-Lunny, a social worker and parent of three students in the district, displayed books that were similarly explicit but covered only heterosexual relations, and they were aimed at a younger audience than This Book Is Gay.

“I just wanted to demonstrate that the content [critics of the book] were talking about, that the ‘explicit’ nature of it was not because of what it showed, the actual pictures … it was focusing on the fact that the book was referencing gay orientation,” she told WGLT after the meeting.

After the public comment period, the board accepted Bonner’s resignation.

Bonner told that she strove to expose her students to a diversity of viewpoints. She had seen former students having difficulty adjusting to college because their experience had been limited, she said. “They had a tough time acclimating to bigger, more diverse spaces,” she noted. Offering a variety of books was one way to prepare them.

“I’ve been fortunate up until now to be supported by the communities that I’ve taught with,” she said. “The signs [of a potential issue] started at the beginning of this school year ... and this heightened culture war that’s continuing to build nationwide.”

Parents who were upset about This Book Is Gay were sending “a message to the LGBTQ+ community in my room and in my district that they’re ‘less than,’” Bonner said.

She still is concerned for her students, she added. “Our students need teachers now more than ever,” she said. “I will always be a teacher, and I will always be a middle school teacher at heart, regardless of where I am and what I do.”

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