JAY — Two people have filed written complaints about books on gender identity and sexuality, and racism being in the Spruce Mountain High School library, Superintendent Scott Albert told the Regional School Unit 73 directors Thursday night. 

“We are starting the complaint process,” he told the board.

Devaney, Doak and Garrett Booksellers in downtown Farmington has partnered with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to give away free copies of “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe to teenagers, secondary-education teachers and librarians. The giveaway follows action by the RSU 56 Board of Directors to ban “Gender Queer,” a book about the author’s exploration of LGBTQ+ identity from adolescence through adulthood. Portland Press Herald file photo

Director Andrew Sylvester of Livermore asked if the titles could be shared.

Albert said they are “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”

The 2019 publication “Gender Queer,” written and illustrated by Maia Kobabe, recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, according to multiple online sources.

“White Fragility” is an international bestseller written by Robin DeAngelo and published in 2018. According to Amazon, she coined the term “white fragility” in 2011 to describe “the ways in which ordinary white people react when it is pointed out to them that they have done or said something that has — unintentionally — caused racial offence or hurt.”


Books are displayed in June 2020, including “White Fragility,” at the Black-owned Frugal Bookstore in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Associated Press file

RSU 73, which includes Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls, is among a growing number of school districts in Maine handling complaints about Kobabe’s memoir. Last month, directors of RSU 56 in Dixfield voted 7-2 to remove it from the Dirigo High School library after getting complaints from parents, at least one calling it “pornographic.”

A Farmington bookstore has partnered with Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to offer teenagers, educators and librarians free copies of the book. Alliance Executive Director Gibson Fay-LeBlanc said “Gender Queer: A Memoir” is the most banned book at the high school level in America.

The complaints filed in RSU 73 are from a parent and another person in the school district, Albert said.

“One individual has already met with our librarian to discuss their complaint, the other is making an appointment to do so,” he wrote in an email Friday. “In the first case the complaint was not resolved, not sure about the second one yet.

“The next step, if the complaint is not resolved with the librarian, is to meet with the building principal,” he said. “The complainants filled out the form before going through the first (two) steps, even though they should have waited. Despite that, we as a district need to make sure that both them and us go through the steps.”

Amy Ryder is the district librarian.


RSU 73 has a five-page policy on selecting instructional, library and media materials that was written in 1982 and updated in 2012. It includes a section on handling complaints.

A complaint will first be heard by the person(s) providing the materials, then is referred to the building principal to complete a challenge form if the complaint isn’t resolved. The completed form is sent to the superintendent who appoints a committee to read the objectionable materials, weigh the values and faults and form opinions based on the material as a whole. The committee’s written report is sent to the superintendent who informs the complainant of the results, the policy states.

While that process is ongoing, the materials may not be removed.

The issue may be appealed to the board of directors, which can discuss it during a regular board meeting or call a special meeting to hear testimony from both viewpoints.

The material in question shall be:

1. Reviewed objectively and in its full content.


2. Evaluated in terms of the needs and interest of students, school, curriculum and community.

3. Considered in the light of differing opinions.

4. Reviewed in light of the criteria for initial selection and purpose as provided in the policy.

The board will announce its decision in writing no later than the conclusion of its next regular meeting following its receipt of testimony, according to the policy.

The section on selecting instructional, library and media materials states: “The Board delegates responsibility for the selection of instructional materials and library-media resources to the professionally trained personnel employed by the school system, subject to the criteria and procedures for selection and the board’s policy on challenged materials . . .”

Among the selection criteria are:


• Consider the varied interests, abilities and maturity levels of the students served.

• Foster respect and appreciation for cultural diversity and varied opinions.

• Give comprehensive, accurate and balanced representation to minorities and women in history, science, leadership and the arts, and acknowledge the contributions of ethnic, religious and cultural groups to our American heritage.

• Present a balance of opposing sides of controversial issues to enable students to develop a capability for critical analysis.

• Stimulate growth in factual knowledge, literary appreciation, aesthetic values and ethical standards.

• Provide a background of information that will enable students to make intelligent decisions in their daily lives.

The section on parental authority says: “A student’s parent/guardian may inspect, upon request, any instructional material used as part of the curriculum.”

“The Board recognizes that the final authority as to what materials an individual student will be exposed rests with that student’s parents or guardians. However, at no time will the wishes of one child’s parents to restrict his/her reading or viewing of a particular item infringe on other parents’ rights to permit their children to read or view the same material. Library-media center materials will not be removed from the collection because of criticism except in accordance with board policy,” the document says.

Albert advised directors: “I suggest you take a look at the policy.”

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