A pair of Oregon school districts has barred its third, fourth, and fifth graders from participating in the Oregon Battle of the Books because the list includes a book about a transgender child that the districts' leaders have found “inappropriate," according to The Oregonian.
The statewide voluntary competition encourages students to read from a vetted list of books and answer questions in a quiz-style showdown based on what they’ve learned. The kids who participate in the reading contest are not required to read every title on the list that was pre-determined by the Battle of the Books executive committee. But the Hermiston and Cascade School Districts determined that the 2015 book George (by Alex Gino), about a 10-year-old trans girl, was not “appropriate,” and opted out of the competition rather than allowing parents to choose what was right for their children.
The Hermiston district "carefully examined the content" of the books the executive committee chose for the competition and "felt that there were some specific things that the character was exploring," that were best left for parents to discuss with their kids spokesperson Maria Duron said, according to The Oregonian. But because the district actually made the choice for parents that George wasn’t the kind of book the kids should be reading, the third through fifth-grade students will only participate in the competition district-wide while kids in other grades will have the opportunity to go on to the statewide competition.
One parent, Sara Hernandez, whose 9-year-old daughter attends school in the Cascade district, was frustrated that officials took the decision to allow her child to participate away from her.
"There were so many other ways the district could have handled it, but basically went with what they felt would be the path of least resistance," Hernandez told the Statesman Journal.
"I can't speak for the whole committee when I say this," Battle of the Books Title Chair Courtney Snyder told The Oregonian. "But it's sad and kind of alarming that instead of letting parents choose to let their students participate or not, or even read all the books on the list or not, Hermiston is taking that choice away from them and from those who didn't have a problem with the title list selections in the first place."
Earlier this year, the anti-LGBT group One Million Moms called for a boycott of George and demanded the publisher Scholastic halt printing the book because it was not what the group deemed “family-friendly.” “Scholastic does not have our children's best interests at heart. Tell Scholastic to stop harming children,” One Million Moms wrote.
"My book will not make anyone transgender, but it can help make people trans aware, and bring connection to those who already are trans, and I believe that those are good things,” George’s author Gino wrote in a statement this week. "I don't believe that there's any age before which it is appropriate to learn compassion."