School district excludes controversial OBOB book
Canby School District has opted to exclude the controversial book "George" from the district Oregon Battle of the Books contest in the upcoming school year, citing that it contains content that is not age-appropriate. But some contend that leaving the book out is inadvertently discriminatory since the book's main character is transgender.
OBOB is a statewide reading competition that Canby schools participate in. Each year, organizers release book lists for each grade division: 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. For the 2018-2019 year, they assigned "George" by Alex Gino for the 3-5 grade division, a book about a transgender elementary school student. But Superintendent Trip Goodall said the book's theme was not a factor in the decision to exclude the book.
"The book's theme about a transgender elementary school student was not a factor in this decision," Goodall said. "Instead, the District has declined to make George part of its OBOB competition due to inappropriate content, as outlined in the memo."
The memo, sent to families of third to fifth grade students, explained the decision-making process. The district librarian researched each assigned OBOB book, either by reading it or accessing resources like Common Sense Media, according to the memo. She examined positive content, violent content, sexual content, references to illegal substances and appropriate language.
She found that "George" includes references to pornography and secretly clearing internet search history.
"Our elementary school principals recommended that this novel not be assigned for our district competitions," Goodall said in the memo.
Goodall then convened a group of parents involved in OBOB, district librarians and administrators to determine how to go forward. They decided to not assign the book for Canby's third to fifth grade students.
"The novel is not banned," Goodall said.
But school board member Angie Dilkes Perry is not happy with the decision, and at the May school board meeting, she expressed concern that excluding the book could prove harmful to some students.
"Trip as you know, I'm extremely upset about that choice," Dilkes Perry said, "and I think it sends a message that we don't want to send to the students in our district that would relate directly to the character in the book."
She continued, "While I hear loudly and clearly the desire to make a distinction between the subject matter of the book and the specific references in the book that are concerning, my friends that are trans don't feel that way. I've had people talk to me about it. I think we need to be really mindful of inadvertently harming a group of students that are already at high risk for lots of pretty scary things. So I just want to say out loud that it's very concerning to me."
Dilkes Perry made her comments toward the end of the meeting. Board Chair Tom Scott said, "Thanks for your comment." But otherwise, no one responded, and they quickly changed subjects.
Dilkes Perry could not be reached for further comment.