Wis. school district removes books with lesbian and gay themes

Thursday, December 24, 1998


The Barron Area School Board in Barron, Wis., voted Dec. 21 to remove four
books that have gay and lesbian themes from school libraries.


The board's latest action was a reconsideration of its prior decision in
October to remove Baby Be-Bop, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, Two
Teenagers in Twenty
and When Someone You Know is Gay from school
library shelves at Barron High School.


District Administrator Vita Sherry had originally recommended that the board
ban Baby Be-Bop for “the use of vulgar language and sexually explicit
passages [that] appeal to the prurient interests only.” Sherry had also
recommended that the board remove When Someone You Know is Gay
because it contains information about AIDS that is “very outdated and
contradicts information that is now available.”


However, Sherry had recommended that the board vote to retain The
Drowning of Stephen Jones
and Two Teenagers in Twenty on library
shelves.


The board decided to permanently ban Baby Be-Bop immediately. The
other three books will be on the shelves for 90 days and then be
replaced.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin decried the latest action as
“censorship” and indicated it would file a lawsuit in January when school
resumes.


Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said:
“The courts and the ACLU agree that public high school students have the
right to receive information and ideas without restrictions that impose a
narrow orthodoxy.


“I am not at all surprised by the board's latest action and their semantics
game of 'replacing' a book. I mean how do you go about 'replacing' a
novel?” he asked.


“We always hold out hope that perhaps a school board will hold an emergency
meeting, but that is not likely,” he said. “We anticipate suing the school
district next month.”


Sherry's staff sent a two-page fax, titled “Barron Book Removal,” which
detailed the board's action on the four books.