Manitoba School Trustees Vote Against Book Review Committee Following Concerns Over Sexual Content

Manitoba School Trustees Vote Against Book Review Committee Following Concerns Over Sexual Content
A photo of a shelf with a variety of children's books, taken on Feb. 9, 2017. (Shutterstock)
Marnie Cathcart

A Manitoba school division has decided not to form a committee to review and potentially remove books containing themes of graphic sexuality, incest, and gender identity from the library of Vincent Massey High School in Brandon.

Last month, Brandon School Division (BSD) trustees received a request from a former school trustee and grandmother, Lorraine Hackenschmidt, to form a committee of parents and trustees to review books and ban any that were deemed inappropriate from a school’s library.

Hackenschmidt appeared at a May 8 board meeting stating she had concerns over the messaging in some of the books that deal with sexual and gender identity.

“We must protect our children from sexual grooming and pedophilia. The sexualization agenda is robbing children of their innocence,” Hackenschmidt said at the meeting. “I just ask that you would remove any books that cause our kids to question whether they are in the wrong body. They are certainly not in the wrong body.”

At the May 23 board meeting board chair Linda Ross said there were “errors and untruths” in Hackenschmidt’s comments about youth feeling they are born in the wrong body.

“In making such a statement, that it’s ‘not possible to be born in the wrong body,’ you are denying the reality of others. And to invalidate that experience and the challenges that accompany that experience adds to the pain that transgender individuals live with every day,” said Ross, who was wearing a rainbow-coloured scarf around her neck.

Hackenschmidt had previously requested the board set up “a committee of parents and trustees to examine the LGBTQ books in our school libraries and remove those with vulgar language, description of sexual acts, and those that are pornographic.”

The school division received nearly 300 emails and letters, most opposed to the formation of a committee, according to BSD. The board meeting agenda said only six were in favour of a review and ban on certain books.
A large turnout attended a six-hour board meeting on May 23, held in the gym at Vincent Massey High School due to the crowd size. Thirty individuals made presentations on the issue before the vote was held. The board voted against the book-banning committee 6-1 with two trustees not present.

Breeanna Sieklicki was the only trustee who voted in favour of the formation of the committee to review books.

“I looked at six books within our school division,” she said before the vote, reading aloud sections of a book containing graphic descriptions of incest between a father and his daughter.

“That is not LGBTQ. It’s incest. Why is that in our school libraries,” said the trustee, with multiple eruptions from the gallery disrupting her speaking time.

“We’re talking about reviewing the content of books, that’s appropriate. How does reading about a sexual act or viewing a sexual act in a picture book in our school libraries make anyone safer,” she asked.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.