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EDUCATION

Auburn school board votes to keep challenged book in high school library

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'All Boys Aren't Blue'

Parents in the Auburn Enlarged City School District have raised concerns at board meetings about the inclusion of George M. Johnson's "All Boys Aren't Blue" in the high school library's collection.

AUBURN — A book that has received local complaints in recent months will remain in Auburn High School's library after the district's board of education voted for its approval.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board made the decision to allow the challenged book "All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto" to remain in the library, after the board accepted a recommendation from a district committee formed to review the book.

Every present school board member voted for the resolution. Dr. Eli Hernandez, the board's vice president, was not at the meeting.

"All Boys Aren't Blue," by journalist and activist George M. Johnson, centers on Johnson's experiences growing up as a queer Black person and has been a part of a national debate on banning books from high school libraries. People calling for the book's removal contend it has passages too sexually explicit for high school and have compared it to child pornography. The book's supporters have argued that taking it out of age-appropriate libraries would be censorship and that Johnson's work, including the pages in question and its overall context, deals with issues young people might be grappling with.

Several written complaints were sent to Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo in January, which prompted an official review process under district policy, including the creation of a committee that would recommend to the school board whether the book should stay in the Auburn High School Library or be removed, although the board would ultimately make the final decision.

Community members for and against the book spoke at school board meetings over the last couple months. The 10-person review committee came to a recommendation at a Feb. 28 meeting after about a 90-minute discussion.

After that meeting, Amy Mahunik, Auburn's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the committee would be recommending the board review the district's "Selection of Library and Audiovisual Materials" policy and make any changes the board feels are necessary, including "a system set up for parents to opt their children out of certain books in the library," for example.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Auburn school board accepted a resolution approving the committee's recommendation. Before the decision was made, Pirozzolo read off the recommendation, which said the committee recommends retaining "All Boys Aren't Blue" at the library and the board review the district's policy on selecting library materials and "consider making adjustments to the policy." He said there had been conversations at the Feb. 28 committee meeting regarding more parental involvement on what materials their children would have access to.

Pirozzolo added Erie 1 BOCES, which works with the Auburn district on its policies, is looking at revising policies in Auburn and other school districts regarding topics such as controversial materials and challenge reconsideration policies. He also said those revised policies are currently expected to be sent by April.

"One (part) of the recommendation is looking at that policy and having more parental involvement, but the policy could come out with that language already," he said.

Additionally, Pirozzolo recommended the Auburn district policy committee not look at that policy until the new policy wording comes in from Erie 1 BOCES. He said the policy committee would then look at the new wording.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education and City Reporter

Hello, my name is Kelly Rocheleau, and I cover the education and city beats for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I've been writing for the paper since December 2016.

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