DEARBORN, Mich. — Dearborn parents are suing a Michigan school district for admitting pornographic books into schools.
Dearborn Public School parents served the school board with an intent to sue on Monday night at a Board of Education meeting. After a tumultuous board meeting in October, when hundreds of Muslim and Christian Dearborn parents called for the removal of multiple “sexually explicit” books, parents had “no other choice but to retain legal expertise,” said Dearborn resident Mike Hacham.
“As you are well aware, these parents have expressed to you great concerns regarding books depicting/describing pornography, pedophilia, and/or other sexually explicit content in your school library,” the lawsuit reads. “They are also concerned over your sexual education policy, enhanced by your own denial of their right to ‘opt-out’ of your district’s sexual education program, in direct violation of Michigan law.”
The school district launched an internal book review after the October school board meeting. DPS announced Monday that it would approve “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, and restrict “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell to high school libraries. The district banned two of the books in question, “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston and “Push” by Sapphire.
“We know our rights as parents and we know that right now our rights are being infringed upon,” said mother Stephanie Butler, before she read passages from the book “Flamer,” which includes graphic references to male genitalia and sexual encounters.
Butler told The Federalist that her child checked out “Flamer” at a school library, adding that she would burn the book before returning it to school shelves.
“I’ll even pay the library fee,” Butler said.
The district enlisted a team of “media specialists” to conduct an internal review process of library books, including specific titles parents brought forth. At the meeting, parents slammed the board for its lack of transparency, asking what criteria the review committee uses to determine if a book is sexually explicit or not.
A district representative said that media specialists had not yet reviewed “All Boys Aren’t Blue” or “This Book is Gay” because the team hadn’t read them yet. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” books discuss sexual encounters, rape, and sexuality, while “This Book is Gay” is a “candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality,” according to its online description.
“You can’t get any more explicit than seeing a woman naked with boobs and a crotch,” said Ann Clark, a Dearborn resident and former candidate for Wayne County Commissioner. “What is it going to take? What is your definition of explicit? I’m willing to be on a committee to help and we’ll have other parents because it should be a parent-driven committee, not staff. We pay you and you’re not listening to us. So in accordance with any corporation, we should fire your ass.”
One school board member, Hussein Berry, quoted the 1982 Supreme Court decision Island Trees School District v. Pico which determined that officials cannot remove books from schools “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in the books.”
“School boards shouldn’t be making decisions on banning books,” he said. “Last time I checked, parental rights are God-given rights. We respect that. But at the same time, we have to work within the law. We can’t allow people to judge others, judge books, at the expense of others.”
Pico also ruled that public schools can remove “pervasively vulgar” books, which parents pointed out that many neighboring school districts have already done. The Spring Lake Board of Education removed “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe from school shelves in October, Hamtramck Public Schools announced an internal review of LGBTQ books this week, and Hillsdale County successfully removed some LGBTQ books from the public library. Many other districts nationwide have removed pornographic material from schools.
“I’m a Christian. These are Muslims. They’re Methodist. I don’t care what religion they are. We’re all here together — as one community. This is about our children,” Clark said. “This has to do with children, all children, I don’t care if they’re black, blue, polka dot, or whatever. You’re failing miserably at protecting our children. And we have to fix this. We as a community are going to do something about it because we have the power of the people.”