Hunterdon County-451 Averted

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Censorship lost this week in Hunterdon County.

Coming when books are being banned all over the country, that was a very noteworthy event.

From just about the start of the school year, some parents and others in the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional district spanning 12 towns and two high schools in a mostly bucolic and Republican county have been waging war against five so-called objectionable books.

All of the books under attack center on issues involving LGBTQ individuals.

The titles are “Lawn Boy,” “Gender Queer,” “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” and “This Book is Gay.” Critics wanted the books banned from school libraries.

This was an issue confronting the local school board, but it went deeper than that.

Conservative irritation, if not anger, at today’s perceived public school curriculum is raging throughout the United States. It could be about books, critical race theory, or as we saw a few months ago in Randolph, Morris County, the removal of Columbus Day as a school holiday.

These sentiments can pay political dividends. Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governorship last fall partly because he made what’s being taught in school a campaign issue.

The national debate, of course, had no direct effect on the regional school board in Hunterdon County, which met virtually Tuesday night.

In truth, there wasn’t all that much controversy. No speaker during the public portion of the meeting called for the books to be removed. And the board voted overwhelmingly to keep all five books on the library shelves. Separate votes were taken on each book.

But there was some debate over one of the books, “This Book is Gay.” That’s because a board subcommittee wanted to remove that book from the library; It voted in favor of keeping the other four books in the libraries.

The work in question, “This Book is Gay,” has been described in one review as a “candid, funny and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBTQ …”

One supporter of the book told the board that the work essentially is sex education for gays. Another said that preventing interested students from reading the book just prevents them from expanding their knowledge.

“Queer people exist,” said another, and they have a right to read about what authors say about them.

Two board members complimented the passion of the speakers and said those who wanted to remove the book failed to clear a “high bar.”

Ultimately, the board overruled its own committee with only two members opposed to keeping the book in the library. The board has 12 members, which is far more than most districts have. “This Book is Gay,” like the other four, remain.

It was not a close vote, but there still was a smidgen of commotion. Three members took the easy way out – they abstained. Guess the issue wasn’t important enough for them.

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