After two hours of public comment, Nixa’s school board voted Thursday night to ban two books from their high school shelves and restrict another.
At their regular meeting, the board was tasked with deciding the fate of three of the sixteen books that had been challenged by parents. Of those, queer memoirs “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” were banned.
A third book, “Homegoing” was restricted – meaning it will be provided to a student with parental permission but will not be placed on high school shelves.
“Fun Home” is the award-winning graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel – telling the story of her childhood as a lesbian and the strained relationship with her gay and closeted father.
Parent Carissa Corson requested the book to be removed for its graphic sexual content.
“Completely inappropriate for minors! Your online catalog even says ‘includes adult content.’ This book contains pornography. “
According to Corson, the alleged pornography includes full-frontal male genitalia, oral sex scenes, pedophilia, grooming, and topless women.
Corson also filed the complaint against “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” which is the memoir of George M. Johnson – telling the story of his childhood as a Black and queer kid.
According to Corson, the book contains “graphic” oral and anal sex and “all copies should be removed.”
“Homegoing” portrays a series of vignettes of many generations of one family who were brought to America in the Atlantic slave trade.
Of the 16 books, seven have been restricted – including “Homegoing” – two have been banned, and seven have yet to be adjudicated.
Before taking their vote, school board members stressed the importance of civility and hearing debate from both sides – several commenting on the difficulty of their decision.
There were two hours of testimony from parents, community members, and students. The night often devolved into boos, cheers and standing ovations.
Sitting in the front rows were more than a dozen Nixa high school students who came to speak against the bannings.
“Students are more mature than anything and most have the ability to handle complex complex themes or topics presented in these books. Slavery, racism and other issues are examples of mature topics that students learn in elementary and middle school. By the time students reach high school , they can navigate these topics on their own without the guidance of a teacher or parent, ”said Nixa junior Justice Jones.
Jones added that parents currently have the right to stop their children from checking out the challenged books from the school library.
“Although these books may not be appropriate for all students, it is unfair to limit the choice for every student. Whether or not a student should read a particular book is solely between them and their parents,” Jones said.
The students collected 316 signatures from their classmates asking for the books to remain in the library.
“These signatures represent students from all grades, genders, ethnicities, who believe they will benefit from access to these books in the library without restriction,” Jones said.
Many of the parents at the meeting argued for all the books to be removed from the shelves – calling them pornographic.
“Excerpts from these books are so egregious and explicit, it would defeat the purpose of our mission to read them out loud in front of minors,” Corson said.
Along with many other speakers at the meeting, Corson called for the Nixa high school librarian to resign for allowing these books into the school.
“If (the school board) voted to keep these books on the shelf, you belong on a national registry. I’d like to call for the resignation of the Nixa High School librarian,” Corson said to cheers and boos from the respective sides .
“They have abused their authority to expose our children to pornographic books and instead of apologizing, they double down and put their stamp of approval on them. They too belong on a national registry.”
Later in the meeting, Nixa high school students in attendance announced support for their librarian – saying they would stand in solidarity with them if fired.
When another speaker called on the librarian to resign, one student booed loudly, interrupting the speaker. Before the board could call the meeting back into order, another person yelled at the booing student, “oh shut up!”