by Evan Stambaugh
Concerned parents whose children attend Hastings Public Schools found a creative way to protest the availability of a sexually explicit book.
At last Wednesday’s school board meeting, parents and grandparents held up signs protesting the district’s approval of Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel that depicts oral sex and masturbation.
One woman, standing directly behind Superintendent Bob McDowell, held a sign reading, “Your superintendent approved sexually explicit materials for your kids,” while a boy held one reading, “Our innocence is worth protecting.”
Other individuals held signs featuring enlarged examples of the sexually explicit material contained in the book. The photos were posted to Facebook by a local group named “Kids Over Politics 200.”
“Hastings parents will not be silenced!” the group said.
Since last August, Hastings Public Schools has only allowed community feedback during closed “listening sessions,” not during actual board meetings, hence the use of homemade signs to protest the book.
According to district procedure: “To be recognized, citizens must sign up on the listening session document no later than 5:40 pm, on the day of the corresponding board meeting. Speakers must provide, on the document, their name, address, topic to which they are speaking, and their relationship to the district. Speakers may provide email addresses and phone numbers, if they choose.”
Only two school board members are required to be present during the listening session, according to the policy, which is reportedly under review.
Three days prior to the board meeting, Facebook flagged the Kids Over Politics 200 page because a previous post about the “Gender Queer” book violated the social media network’s “community standards” on “nudity or sexual activity.”
The group noticed the irony right away.
“It’s not ok for Facebook, but totally fine for children as young as 14 and without parental consent,” their post read.
A member of the Hastings school board, Carrie Tate, spearheaded a motion earlier in October to discuss the availability of sexually graphic materials like “Gender Queer.”
Tate said she introduced the motion after both the district superintendent and director of teaching and learning recommended Kobabe’s graphic novel remain available to children.
“This is in several school districts, and the fact is that parents don’t know,” she said in an interview with Minnesota Senate candidate Tom Dippel.
McDowell did not respond to previous requests for comment.
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Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.
Photo “Parents Protesting Hastings School Board Meeting” by Kids Over Politics 200.