Two LGBTQ+ books back on shelf in Kent, WA, Middle School; New challenge on the bridge

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Earlier this year, we reported on three books quietly removed from a college in Kent, Washington. Gavin Downing, a school librarian at Cedar Heights Middle School, saw three LGBTQ+ books quietly removed from the collection by the school principal, in a move that did not follow challenge procedures. There had been no formal challenge to any of the titles.

Two of the three books have been returned to the collection. A third, however, has now been formally challenged.

A parent of a Cedar Heights Middle School student has filed a reconsideration form for Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen. The plaintiff, a former Kent School District employee, points to many of the same passages seen across the country for the book, calling the book inappropriate for a college setting. In the form, age is specifically addressed, noting that a book for ages 14 and older is inappropriate in a school for students in grades 6-8, because “[t]he majority of students entering grade 8 are 13 years old. With 6th graders expected to join middle school, we will have students as young as 10 entering school. Apparently, these eighth graders who turn 14 are not members of this school community.

The complaint further explains that exposure to “explicit material” such as this book harms college students and that the book’s single-paragraph language would warrant an R rating, if it were a movie.

Downing provided a 20-page, research-based response to the complaint, which can (and should) be read in full here. It specifically notes the need to reach all students within a community, as well as a body of research on the role that exposure to queer-positive literature has for students of any identity. It also notes the convenient research elements omitted from the formal complaint.

The person who filed the complaint currently has no children enrolled in Cedar Heights Middle School. Jack of hearts (and other parts) is a frequent traveler among the book’s challengers, and in local Washington “parental rights” groups, it’s a shared headline with an array of talking points that encourage adults to challenge. One post in particular is casting doubt on the entire examination process in the Kent School District after the failure of early book removals, which were done quietly outside of the formal process.

The book will go through the formal review process and, per procedure, will likely end up before the school board for discussion. Downing remains cautiously optimistic that the book will remain available to students after review.

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