Dearborn Hundreds of people stood outside the Henry Ford Centenary Library in Dearborn on Sunday in opposing demonstrations: to speak out against a recent book ban on some titles reflecting sexuality by the school district and for those who want parents and not the district to choose which books their children have access to.
Ross Grover, district counselor, at Dearborn Public Library, said seven books were temporarily held from circulation in Dearborn Public Schools libraries during the review of the material review process.oard from September 12th educational meeting. A district book review committee made up of parents, teachers, administrators, and media professionals will review titles and more in Dearborn School libraries.
The removed addresses were submitted by the parents. They are: “Push” from Sapphire. “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold; “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Roel; “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston; “And They Lived” by Stephen Salvatore; “All Boys Are Not Blue” by George M. Johnson; and “This Book Like Me” by Juno Dawson.
Five of the books were removed from the area’s physical libraries while two were available as e-books through an online catalog. Since the district does not have the authority to organize books in the catalog, they have temporarily removed student access to the entire online library.
“As their first task, the county book review committee will meet to make a recommendation on the suitability of the seven books already identified,” Grover said at the September 12 meeting. The committee will consider “what is appropriate … more specific insofar as it is appropriate for our libraries.”
The decision to remove the books sparked a backlash from some teachers, parents, students and community members. Language arts teacher Mary Kubitschek, and her friends abstained from the board’s decision to remove the books from circulation. They planned the Sunday noon rally, adopting the phrase: “Books unite us, censorship divides us.”
“We’ve always been like this, it’s crazy, it’s going to pass, but months and months have passed and it hasn’t happened yet,” Kubitschek said. “So we decided we need to kind of let people know what’s going on. Because a lot of people, I think, are against that.”
Book bans are increasing across the country. The American Library Association Reports More addresses have been targeted for bans and restrictions so far in 2022 than in all of 2021. And the books banned last year are usually about the LGBTQ+ protagonist or the colored protagonist, according to Report from PEN Americaa non-profit organization dedicated to promoting freedom of expression.
Books removed by Dearborn Public Schools follow this trend.
Information from the American Library Association on how to stop bans on local books was distributed at the rally.
“This is an attack on our public schools and public libraries, and this is an attempt to take away people’s rights to read and people’s right to hear other people’s stories,” Kubisch said.
Shannon and Weetas live in Garden City with her son and daughter, who she says are members of the LGBTQ community. Woitas, who wept at the thought that her children didn’t have access to LGBTQ+ books, said the topic “hits home hard,” especially since Woitas and her daughter are avid readers.
“As a member (of the LGBTQ+ community) and then I see my kids go through with it…” These books don’t make you gay, said Weitas, 49. It just tells you it’s okay, you’ll get over it, you’ll be who you are, you’ll go through the struggle and you’ll be okay the other side.”
An hour after gathering in support of book preservation in libraries, at about 2:30 p.m., a pro-ban crowd held a rally in the main library. The Protect Our Children leaders brought three excerpts from the books under review. One of the exhibits was from the book This Is Gay, showing a boy naked, and another showing a boy challenging another boy to ejaculate.
Sam Smalley sat on the second assembly of the Library’s steps with a rainbow flag, symbolizing his support for the LGBTQ+ community. The show led three police officers to put up barricades around it in an effort to reduce the feud between Smalley and supporters of the book banning participants.
The crowd grew, and so did the number of officers as Smalley sounded the siren during comments by parents in favor of banning the book. Parents protested the sexual illustrations in the books under review.
“Enough is enough,” the crowd chanted.
Among the crowd was Zina Hamed, 43, a former Dearborn Public School student who is now a mother of three in the area.
“I never remember going to school and checking books like this,” Hamid said. “If someone is going to take the time to actually read it, it has nothing to do with gays, I have nothing against anyone. It’s a free country…but there is a difference between this and this that is taught in schools,” Hamid said.
Stephanie Butler, organizer of the Protect Our Children march, has spoken to the board of directors about the issue for more than a year.
“These people want to sexualize our children,” Butler said. “We have a lot of issues in schools. We don’t need another issue on top of it, which is sex books. I don’t think we’ll support it in Dearborn anymore.”
Butler said parents should have more input into their children’s curriculum. “I want answers from management about how the library process works,” Butler said. “We can’t have Bibles, we can’t have Korans, but we can be distorted.”
Dearborn joins four other Michigan school districts that have temporarily blocked or restricted access to books pending investigation, according to the PEN America Textbook Ban Index. As of June 2022, Gladwin Community Schools have banned 34 addresses, pending investigation, Hudsonville Public Schools have banned “Half of the Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, In classrooms, Novi Community School District has banned “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Eveson in libraries and Rochester The community schools have banned five books pending investigation.