Local parent joins the nation in challenging widely controversial memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue”

%E2%80%9CAll+Boys+Aren%E2%80%99t+Blue%E2%80%9D+has+made+headlines+with+schools+across+the+nation+attempting+to+ban+the+memoir.+

Lauren Puthoff

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” has made headlines with schools across the nation attempting to ban the memoir.

Lauren Puthoff and Molly Rawat

In the sphere of education, society often loses sight of the rights of both educators and learners. When it comes to access to adequate resources, some parents draw the line between what is and is not appropriate for their children. Several schools across the country have faced challenged material, and PV itself recently held a school board hearing regarding the removal of a queer Black man’s memoir titled “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” 

A parent of elementary school students in the PVCSD raised concerns about this book, which could be found shelved in the PVHS library. As “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is being challenged across the states, even at nearby Ankeny schools, many parents have checked it out and found its contents to be beyond dissatisfactory.

The complaint was filed by a parent who claimed the memoir contained “gratuitous pornographic content” for its portrayal of incestuous molestation and the loss of virginity. She stated that by displaying this book on its shelves, the community was committing a “public offense” according to Iowa Code 728.2. 

Through democratic processes, the jury reached a conclusion deciding not to remove the book from the PVHS library. But, this verdict does not prevent the possibility of an appeal, a retrial or attempts of banning similar books from library shelves at PV and around the country. 

Why should students at PV care? The final decision regarding this case and any to come will set a precedent moving forward, as many who spoke at the hearing mentioned. What happened at this trial and could happen in the future which will impact the content of all libraries in the PVCSD – the libraries the community’s students rely on. 

To ensure quality education for all, American society must analyze what material is being challenged and why.

Fear 

Throughout the years, roughly over 50% of all banned books center around stories about and by members of the LGBTQ community or people of color. Could it really be a coincidence that the majority of banned books are about marginalized groups? 

It is common for humans to reject and fear that which deviates from the norm. This can be seen through which type of material is often challenged, who challenges it and in which school districts it is challenged. Here at PV, a predominantly white school with a small minority of LGBTQ students, it is not surprising that “All Boys Aren’t Blue” has caused discomfort among parents. 

Apart from the lack of diversity in PV hallways, there is a lack of diversity in its libraries. According to librarian Carissa McDonald, who purchases the books for PVCSD libraries, at the PVHS library, only about 2% of the collection features LGBTQ stories, and only a little over 4.8% of all the books features Black stories. 

Private schools or homeschooling programs are a place for parents to more easily control the content their children consume, so oftentimes, these students may not be exposed to a diverse set of works. The purpose of public education, however, is to provide education to all types of students, which means including material for everyone. 

It seems most parents agree with this sentiment, but books like “All Boys Aren’t Blue” continue to be challenged and often successfully banned in many public schools across the country, usually for containing some type of “obscene” content. 

Are the stories of marginalized communities obscene because of their graphic nature or because they differ from the norm?

Senior Isaiah Pielak, who read the memoir and spoke at the hearing, explained why he thinks books like this one are challenged and banned. “I think ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ is being challenged because it expresses a demographic that people are not supportive of,” he said. “I think they don’t want to hear the stories of oppression from individuals of color and individuals who do not fit the straight cisgender norms.”

Censorship 

In every standard English class, teachers express that writing is an art form — a way to put feelings onto paper without the fear of judgment or harassment from others. Some teenagers use writing as an outlet to convey their emotions and release the stress of the teenage reality, while others find comfort in reading stories that align with theirs. By putting their feelings onto paper, authors and children are able to relieve stress by combating the negative and intrusive thoughts in their brains. 

Author’s create works of literature to connect with readers around the world. Their words have the ability to impact readers in any continent, but sometimes the words written cause dismay, ruining the book’s purpose and power. 

The purpose of banning books is to censor material that may be “sexually explict,” contain “offensive language” or be “unsuitable for any age group,” but much of this criteria remains ambiguous and means something different to differing audiences.

English teacher Lynne Lundberg emphasized the mission she believes public schools should have. “I think that when we send our children to public school, the public schools have a mission that is to help parents to raise people who are critical thinkers, who will analyze societal situations on their own merits, not because of one particular way they have been taught,” she said. 

“I think that when we send our children to public school, the public schools have a mission that is to help parents to raise people who are critical thinkers, who will analyze societal situations on their own merits, not because of one particular way they have been taught.” ”

— Lynne Lundberg

Parents want schools to uphold the same beliefs that are taught in their households, but schools have to facilitate a balance between parents’ wants and students’ needs. Public schools may be unable to follow every distinct set of rules for every child while still giving all of them a proper education. 

Public learning institutions are not meant to cater to every individual; they are meant to cater to all. Whether that means having different types of books in the library, having various types of clubs or even both, not everyone has to use the resources available, but they are there in case someone does. 

When a parent wants to get rid of a resource that may mean nothing to them or their children, they could restrict another family from finding what they need. McDonald quoted the famous words of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop who stated, “Books are windows, sliding-glass doors and mirrors. Windows: We can see through into another world. Sliding glass doors: We can vicariously spend time in another world. Mirrors: We can see ourselves reflected.”

The Internet

Across the nation, those who want “All Boys Aren’t Blue” removed from schools all have one common claim: The book is “too pornographic” for students to read. The word itself has been compared to sexual assault and rape numerous times. The vital difference between the two is that pornography causes sexual arousement, while sexual assault and rape are forceable actions that cause pain and suffering. 

A point many brought up at the hearing was that parents fail to realize their children have access to the internet, which holds far more explicit information than a survivor’s story. The web allows kids to search for whatever they please without anyone stopping them.

The internet holds a parent’s worst nightmare: pornography websites and nude images, only just a quick click away. Yet even with these dangers, many parents feel that books in the school library are more dangerous for their children, rather than the uncensored internet. 

To avoid these issues, parents can have conversations with their children at home about the media they consume in order to prevent their children from interacting with content they think is unsuitable.

PV Diversity

When looking around the PV school district, there is one commonality between every district school: The majority of students are white. Kids that grow up in communities full of people who look like them believe that is how the rest of the world is, while students of color see the world differently. The lack of diversity comes from the deep roots of redlining in the area, leading many generations of PV graduates to be white. 

Librarians have power to influence students through the purchasing of books that allow for more diversity than may be seen in the school hallways. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to the purpose of public education and, therefore, the mission public schools must enforce. Private schools often cater to a specific and mostly homogeneous student population, but public schools must fulfill the educational needs of their increasingly diverse student body.  

Although “All Boys Aren’t Blue” remains on PVHS bookshelves, material will continue to be challenged as the community has the right and responsibility to keep public schools safe and purposeful for all students.