Austin Parents Call for Firing of a Teacher Who Read An Anodyne Picture Book About a Trans Kid to Her Class

Illustration for article titled Austin Parents Call for Firing of a Teacher Who Read An Anodyne Picture Book About a Trans Kid to Her Class
Image: Reycraft Books

Conservatives who rant about cancel culture actually love canceling children’s books that include content that makes them personally uncomfortable. 

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The most recent example? In Austin, Texas, furious parents recently made several complaints to a school after a fourth grade teacher read Call Me Max, a fairly anodyne book about a young trans boy named Max, to her class; some parents are even calling for the teacher to be fired. Rather than defending a teacher reading a frankly pedestrian book out loud to her kids, the district not only described the book as inappropriate, but then took the incredible step of providing counselors to students who heard the book read out loud, as if listening to a book about a trans kid is somehow akin to experiencing a school shooting.

More, via TODAY:

Several parents wrote letters complaining to Forest Trail Elementary, with some calling for the teacher to be fired. In response, Eanes Independent School District’s chief learning officer, Susan Fambrough, explained in an email to parents that “Call Me Max” had been included on a list of diverse books circulated among teachers but was “not appropriate to be read aloud to an entire elementary-age class.”

“Counselors were made available to support students, and the school administration worked with families to provide an explanation and reassurances,” she wrote.

In her emailed letter, Fambrough also described “gender identity” as a “sensitive topic,” as if children aren’t taught ideas about gender all of the fucking time, every single day of their lives.

This is not the first time that a school has responded to parental outrage over Call Me Max in a panic in recent weeks. In February, a school district in Utah canceled an entire reading program meant to—ironically enough—promote diversity and inclusion after a third grader brought their copy of Call Me Max to school and asked their teacher to read it out loud in class. Parents were so upset that their children were exposed to the idea of a trans kid in a picture book that they called the school to complain, leading the district to suspend the so-called “Equity Book Bundle” program to, as one outlet put it, “ensure that the books approved for classroom use are age-appropriate and do not deal with controversial issues like sexuality or gender identity.”

According to the American Library Association, half of the books challenged most in schools and public libraries in recent years have LGBTQ themes, and several, such as George and I am Jazz, are about trans kids. As Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the ALA’s director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, told NBC News, “[W]e’ve seen an increase in organized efforts to pull these books from school and community libraries in recent years, especially books that include transgender characters.”

Kyle Lukoff, the author of Call Me Max, posted a letter to Twitter responding to the district’s decision to treat the reading of a picture book as a traumatic event. “Do you believe that a read-aloud about a transgender child is an equivalent trauma?” he wrote. He added, “How do you think transgender people in your community felt having their identities treated like a disaster?”

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As one parent of a trans son, who attended Eanes ISD schools until his graduation, put it to TODAY, the response from the school district sends a hateful message to trans kids like her son Jeremy. “It tells them that they must be invisible, that they can’t talk about who they are, that they are unworthy,” Jo Ivester said.

Jeremy, Ivester’s son, agreed. “If this resource was around when I was a kid and I had been exposed to this, it would’ve been life changing, because I grew up in a time where no one really knew what transgender was, that it was a thing you could be,” he told CBS Austin. He added, “I think it’s absolutely appropriate that this is taught in schools and that kids are allowed to see and that it’s not something taboo, that it’s something that should be normalized.”

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But of course, that’s precisely what parents like those who get outraged over a book like Call Me Max don’t want.

Senior reporter, Jezebel

DISCUSSION

Cancel culture has always been more of a right-wing thing anyway. Cancel culture started with the Hollywood Blacklist, and continued destroying the careers of anyone LGBT+, the Dixie Chicks, Colin Kaepernick, and a bunch of other people. They’re only mad about it now because it’s being used against them.