Books Depicting Graphic Sex Scenes Back in Virginia School Library

By Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.
December 3, 2021 Updated: December 9, 2021

Books containing extremely graphic sex scenes and pictures were returned to a Virginia school library last week.

The books—”Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison—are among many books containing sexual content that have been banned from school libraries in several states, including Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Minnesota.

In Florida and Texas, police have launched criminal investigations into the availability of the books in school libraries after receiving complaints from parents.

Both books were chosen to receive the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which are given to 10 books annually with “special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

The Fairfax County School Board (FCPS), which oversees the largest public school system in Virginia, has ruled the books are appropriate and serve the needs of LGBTQ+ students in search of diverse reading material they can relate to.

Its decision was based on a review committee—made up of parents, students, and school officials—appointed to assess the books.

The committee unanimously recommended the books be returned to the school library.

The books contain such graphic material that when parent Stacy Langton began reading excerpts from them—during a public comment session at a Sept. 23 school board meeting—school board members interrupted her and told her the content wasn’t appropriate for public reading at the meeting because “there were children in the audience.”

At its Dec. 2 meeting, the Fairfax County School Board, got an earful of public comments on the issue from parents who spoke for, and against, the books.

Jane Miscavage, a school librarian and also a parent, thanked the committee for voting to return the books.

“I’m glad that the committee’s found what I did, that these books have the potential to reach marginalized students, who may not otherwise see themselves in FCPS’s 3-million-book collection,” she said.

Marianne Burke, another parent in support of the books, said she believes the books will help combat the high suicide rate among LGBTQ youth, which she attributed to “a result of unique and hostile stressors sexual minorities face related to their sexual minority identity.

“They need their reality reflected back to them through literature that is available to them,” said Burke.

“And we must remember that by equating any kind of queer love and sexuality with pornography, the message we send to youth is that their love is not as real as straight love, and their bodies are wrong, and there’s something to be hidden and ashamed of.”

Lindai Kendall, among the parents opposed to the books being in the school library, called the board “tone deaf” to the reality that the books are illegal.

“Pornography in our schools is illicit and, by allowing it, everyone in this school board is complicit, because they promote pornography.”

Kendall read aloud the federal obscenity law that makes it illegal for anyone to distribute, or possess, any kind of visual depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

“Read the law,” she told the board.

Stacy Langton, who spearheaded the removal of the books, also spoke out against the books during the meeting. Also, she brought up two other books—”All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Decelerate Blue”—she said are in the school library.

“I could share his seven-page-long pornographic account of him being … [attacked] at age 13 by his 18-year-old male cousin.

“I could also show you the pornographic illustrations of two girls having sex in Adam Rapp’s graphic novel entitled ‘Decelerate Blue,'” said Langton, “but I didn’t come to do that.”

Langton later told The Epoch Times she was deeply offended that she was being characterized as being anti-LGBTQ, especially since her own mother was a lesbian.

“This is not about the gender of these characters, or the sexual orientation of these characters,” said Langton, “it’s about explicit X-rated depictions of sex between an adult and a child, and that’s not only disgusting and reprehensible, it’s illegal.”

Fairfax County school superintendent Scott Brabrand spoke on the issue following the comments.

“I want to reaffirm, as we have, that Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to providing diverse reading materials in our libraries that reflect our student population, and allow every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the library and in literary characters.”

School officials—in states where the books have been banned—have said they were troubled by them being in their school libraries.

“I am deeply troubled about the content that was brought to our attention, particularly the blatantly sexual drawings,” said Hudson, Ohio, school superintendent Phil Herman.

The Leander Police Department in Austin, Texas, and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department, in Florida, are both conducting criminal investigations into the availability of the same Virginia books at their local school libraries after several parents filed obscenity complaints about them.

The school districts in both communities have since pulled the books pending the investigation.

Brandi Burkman, one of the Leander Independent School parents in Texas who filed a complaint about the books, believes anyone who supports the books in a school should be criminally charged.

“Who normalizes sex acts between fourth graders? I’ll tell you who. Pedophiles,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this article gave the wrong name and size for the Fairfax County Public Schools system. The Epoch Times regrets the errors.

Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.